Legion Baseball: South Rowan 11, Wilkes 8
By David Shaw
WILKESBORO ó This was strictly a business trip for South Rowan’s American Legion baseball team.
Post 185/146 made the 80-minute journey to Wilkes County Saturday night, rolled up its sleeves and collected a had-to-have-it 11-8 win.
“That was my approach,” coach Michael Lowman said after South (16-6) took a two-games-to-none lead in this best-of-five, first-round playoff series. “I know it’s a long drive and we only wanted to make this trip once. We came here and took care of business. Hopefully we’ll be able to close it out (tonight) at our place.”
South shook off a lethargic start and moved within one victory of reaching the second round. Game 3 is scheduled tonight at South.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of intensity, but we found a way to win,” said outfielder Ryan Bostian. “It was kind of dead out here, and as players we didn’t really come to play.”
It took until the late innings for South to ignite its bombs-bursting-in-air performance. It took a 4-1 lead after Maverick Miles and Bostian delivered run-scoring, extra-base hits against Wilkes starter Scott Gambill in the top of the sixth. But Post 31 (8-13) tied the score when catcher Josh Zumbrook belted a three-run homer against right-hander Alex Ingold in the last of the sixth.
“We had a big inning and then gave it right back to them,” said Lowman. “We didn’t do a very good job of putting them away when we could have.”
That didn’t stop SR from trying. In the seventh it scored five runs after Wilkes reliever Chris Pruitt retired the first two batters. Key blows were Miles’ second run-scoring double, Bostian’s three-run homer to left field and Matt Ingold’s RBI single. Bostian’s blast ó on a hanging, 1-0 curveball ó would prove decisive.
“Guys were getting on base in front of me,” he said. “That always helps. Once I hit the home run, our pitchers seemed to have a little more momentum.”
That’s not entirely accurate. Only Brett Huffman, South’s fourth and final reliever, was truly effective. He retired two batters in the bottom of the eighth, stranding two baserunners, and pitched a scoreless ninth.
“Brett Huffman was really, really good,” said Lowman. “He was the bright spot out of the bullpen.”
SR clinched the win with two unearned runs in the ninth against Pruitt.
“Every time we got down, we fought back,” said Wilkes coach Terry Johnson, whose team is nine innings from being swept into a post-season dustpan. “We kept the pressure on South to play and continue to play ó and they did.”
NOTES: Miles went 4-for-5 and drove in three runs. … Lowman said either Cam Park or Dylan Walker, both southpaws, will start tonight.