Legion Baseball: Rowan 10, Stanly 0
By Mike London
A pair of Russell Michalec homers barely had time to land before Zach Smith started his own home-run trot at Newman Park.
Michalec and Smith went back-to-back twice Wednesday to power Rowan County to a 10-0 victory over Stanly County in the opener of a best-of-five, second-round series.
“Russell was hitting the ball great so I had to match him,” Smith said. “I hit my first homer on a curveball. The other one was a fastball.”
Michalec feasted on a high fastball first. His encore came on a hanging curve.
“Guys were getting on in front of me, and Zach and I were really combining tonight,” Michalec said. “It started with BP. Everyone was hitting the ball hard.”
Smith, who added a fine running catch in right field, couldn’t match Michalec all night. Michalec had seven RBIs. Besides his pair of two-run homers, he hit a sac fly to the right-field wall in the sixth and lined a two-run double to left in the seventh that ended the game by the 10-run rule.
The double definitely could have been caught, but Michalec was on a roll, and it fell. He added a superb night with the glove to help Corbin Shive (4-0) post a dominating four-hit shutout.
“Not to brag or anything,” Shive said, “but if we can play every game like this we’ll go a ways in the playoffs.”
Fourth-seeded Stanly (13-11) wasn’t arguing. Stanly was the last team to beat top-seeded Rowan before it started a 10-game winning streak, but it was often overpowered by Shive, a Charlotte signee who is 7-0 in his Legion career.
“We didn’t hit, we didn’t run the bases, and we couldn’t keep Rowan in the ballpark,” Stanly assistant Dereck Barringer said. “Our starter (Ryne Poplin) was on short rest and not as effective as he usually is. And Shive was on. If he’s on, it’s tough.”
Shive benefited from a nice play by catcher Austin Shull in the first inning. Stanly had runners on the corners with one out when Shull picked Jordan Sells off third.
“Shull can snap it around to the bases,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “That’s one of the reasons why he’s in there.”
Stanly also had a pair of baserunning mishaps that wrecked scoring opportunities in the third and sixth.
Trey Holmes didn’t homer, but he was huge for Rowan (20-4), with three singles, two steals, a walk and four runs scored. His 155 runs scored rank sixth in program history.
“I guess I was that leadoff batter tonight,” Holmes said. “Guys drove me in, and Corbin was great. He was the best I’ve seen him in a long time.”
Holmes singled to start the Rowan first and consecutive homers by Michalec and Smith staked Shive to a 3-0 lead.
Stanly failed to turn a routine double play in the fourth ó second baseman Bradley Love couldn’t get the ball out of his glove ó and Rowan took advantage. Michalec and Smith followed with longballs. That made it 6-0, and the way Shive was humming, it was over.
Rowan led 8-0 when Stanly put two on with one out in the seventh. Gantt headed slowly to the mound.
“Corbin had gotten upset about a pitch, and he’d pitched too good a game to get upset about one pitch,” Gantt explained.
Shive thought he was through, but Gantt left him in, and Shive got two quick strikeouts to end the inning. When Rowan won by the 10-run rule in the bottom of the seventh, Shive was the proud owner of a shutout.
“I went after those last two guys,” Shive said. “You know, ‘Here’s my fastball. See if you can hit it.’ ”
Stanly couldn’t, but it figures to be a lot tighter tonight in Albemarle.
“Stanly’s a great-hitting team with a lot of lefties,” Gantt said. “We’re a predominantly right-handed pitching staff. It’s a tough matchup for us.”