Legion baseball state tournament: Shull, Crucitti get clutch hits
By Bret Strelow
GREENVILLE ó Two improbable sources generated power for Rowan County in its 6-2 win against Cherryville on the second day of the American Legion state tournament.
Austin Shull came to the plate in the fifth inning sporting a .153 average but smacked a game-tying double ó his second extra-base hit of the season.
With two on and nobody out in the eighth, Jon Crucitti provided needed insurance by delivering a no-doubt homer to left off a changeup from Cherryville starter Jake Watts.
Crucitti, who had struck out twice and grounded out in his first three plate appearances, showed bunt on the first two pitches of his final at-bat. Rowan teammate Russell Michalec sprinted toward home as Crucitti pushed Watts’ initial offering foul.
“They gave me an opportunity to bunt to get it down the first base side and hopefully get the run in, but it was an inside curveball I ended up bunting foul in self-defense,” Crucitti said. “It’s a good thing I can’t bunt a curveball.
“It was a nice time to get that hit. I guess timing was everything with it.”
Crucitti, who collected five hits in his first six at-bats of the season, entered Sunday’s game with an average that had dropped to .356 due to a recent slump.
Shull, who has shared time at catcher with Matt Miller and didn’t play in a win against Duplin County on Saturday, has struggled at the plate all summer.
With Cherryville leading 2-1 in the fifth, Philip Miclat singled and stole second base. Shull capped a six-pitch at-bat against the hard-throwing Watts with a flyball that sailed over right fielder Bryan DaCanal’s head and bounced off the base of the wall.
“I try my hardest just to clear my head when I get up to the plate and not think about anything that’s happened in the past, not think about any of my previous at-bats,” Shull said. “Just go at it from the present on what I’m about to see.”
The double by Shull, Rowan’s ninth-place batter, created an RBI opportunity for leadoff man Trey Holmes.
Holmes pulled a pitch down the right-field line with first base open, allowing Shull to cross home with the go-ahead run.
“I knew for this team to score a lot of runs in games like this we need the bottom of the lineup to get on base so the big hitters like Trey and Russell can drive us in,” Shull said. “I tried as best I could to read the pitch (Watts) was about to throw. I sat on a fastball and took it the other way. I was very happy to be on second base, especially after driving in a run to tie it up.”