Legion Baseball: South Rowan 9, Kannapolis 6
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó Even fans were exhausted after watching South Rowan beat Kannapolis 9-6 in an American Legion opener that began shortly after 7 p.m. on Thursday and threatened to stretch into Friday.
It wasn’t a thriller. Not unless you get a kick out of watching people drop their bats and trot to first base.
The last of South’s five hits came in the fifth inning, but 17 South players reached base without being forced to swing.
Fourteen walks and three hit batsmen helped make Michael Lowman’s head-coaching debut a success. Eight of the nine South runners that scored reached base via walks or HBPs.
“They can’t all be like this or I won’t have any hair left,” Lowman said. “We’ve got to throw more strikes. Guys coming out of the pen have got to throw more strikes.”
Lowman’s five pitchers walked only six so you can imagine how Kannapolis coach Matt Stack felt after watching South’s parade of patience. Stack employed seven arms, some of them youngsters getting their first taste of Legion ball, in a game that won’t count in the Southern Division of Area III standings.
“We were just shuffling the deck, giving some young guys a look,” Stack said. “We’re gonna be fine. We did a whole lot of good things. We never quit fighting, and I really like what I saw from my team.”
The middle of Stack’s lineup ó college guys Jacob Wright, Hunter Pate and Daniel Welch ó is going to cause problems for opponents. Pate went 3-for-4 and hit the game’s only homer.
Two guys who did pitch well on night when there was a minimal amount of mound magic were South’s Ingold brothers, Alex and Matt.
Alex started, avoided major damage and departed after five innings with a 5-3 lead.
Matt, who just finished his freshman season as a UNC Pembroke infielder, got the last two outs of the game for a save. It was a well-earned save, with two runners on base when he entered and power at the plate.
“I wanted to make sure I got Alex a win,” Matt said. “I don’t think that I’ve ever saved one for him.”
South Rowan High players such as Alex Ingold, Blake Houston, Maverick Miles and Dylan Walker breathed sighs of relief. They hadn’t tasted victory since the Easter tournament, so “exhibition game” or not, it felt pretty good.
South trailed 2-0 early, but a five-run third gave the visitors control at Veterans Field. They never gave it back.
The third started with consecutive walks to Walker, Randy Shepherd and Houston.
Walker was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Jordan Phillips when he tried to tag up on Ryan Bostian’s flyball. The unusual 8-2 double play put Kannapolis in position to get out of the inning unscathed, but Julio Zubillaga socked a two-run double.
“Just a really big hit by Zubillaga because it looked like we might get no runs that inning,” Lowman said. “Instead we get five.”
After Miles and Matt Ingold reached base, Tyler Freeze accepted one of his two bases-loaded walks on the night to give South a 3-2 lead. Then Brett Huffman came through with a two-run single.
In the sixth, seventh and eighth, South tacked on a total of four runs. Eight walks. No hits.
South led 9-6 going to the bottom of the ninth.
Walker Smith got one out in the ninth, but Lowman turned to Matt Ingold to relieve after Wes Honeycutt’s booming double put runners at second and third.
Ingold got ahead with breaking balls, then struck out the powerful Wright on a fastball away. Then he fanned Matt Mariano to end it.
“Matt coming in with the gas that he did was totally unexpected,” Alex Ingold said. “When he struck out Wright, Jacob looked over at our dugout with an expression that said, ‘Hey, where did that come from?’ ”
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