Legion baseball: Rowan 1, Sumter 0
By Bret Strelow
SUMTER, S.C. ó Once outfielder Russell Michalec squeezed the ball into his mitt for the final out, Corbin Shive walked calmly from the mound toward the third-base dugout. He turned left and filed in near the front of the handshake line.
He didn’t display much emotion, but his blank stare complemented a scoreboard littered with zeroes.
Shive pitched a three-hit shutout as Rowan County posted a 1-0 victory against tournament host Sumter (S.C.) in a Southeast Regional opener at Riley Park on Thursday night. Trey Holmes scored on Jon Crucitti’s two-out single in the top of the ninth inning, and Shive induced a game-ending flyout to left with two runners aboard.
“I was ecstatic,” Shive said. “I didn’t really show it, but it was a lot of relief to get that last out.
“We score a run, it’s my game to lose. You can’t do anything but go out there and throw the last inning.”
The result pushed Rowan (33-7) into a winners bracket game with Alabama champion Tuscaloosa (50-6) tonight at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Rowan, which earned a 1-0 win against Mocksville-Davie last year, benefited from its first complete game of the season.
Shive (7-0) had a one-hitter going with two away in the ninth, but Tony Micklon and Patrick Gordon produced back-to-back singles. That led to a mound visit from coach Jim Gantt, and Jeremy Buckner fouled back a first-pitch changeup.
“I really didn’t want him to come out of the game with a loss as well as he had pitched, but I felt like once we got in that situation it was his game to win or lose,” Gantt said. “He wanted to stay out there.
“First-pitch changeup, you have to have some confidence to do that. We knew he was going to swing at the first pitch, and Corbin located it in a good spot. The guy fouled it back, and I’d hate to think what might have happened if it was a fastball.”
Buckner fell behind 0-2 and hit a lazy flyball on a 1-2 count. Shive, who issued three walks and struck out three batters in a 111-pitch outing, improved to 10-0 in his American Legion career.
Sumter’s Tyler Broome took the loss after replacing 16-year-old lefty Jordan Montgomery, who was placed on a pitch count by his doctor and fanned nine hitters in seven innings.
“I thought it was a great spectator game, and I certainly didn’t like the outcome,” Sumter coach Wallie Jones said. “It was two heavyweight pitchers going at each other, and their guy was one inning better than we were.”
Neither team had a baserunner reach second base until the fifth inning, and Holmes was the only Rowan player to advance beyond first.
He opened the ninth inning with a sharp single to center and moved up on Michalec’s sacrifice bunt. Zach Smith flied out, and Crucitti wasn’t happy with a call that put him in a 1-2 count against Broome.
Crucitti lined the sixth pitch of his at-bat over shortstop Bruce Caldwell’s glove, and Holmes scored easily.
“I had to step out of the box for a moment and regroup my thoughts and pick out a good pitch to hit,” Crucitti said. “He had come with a curveball the pitch before that I had fouled off, and I didn’t really expect to see one again. When he threw it, I was able to put some barrel on it and drop it over the shortstop’s head. Obviously it was just a relief to see that ball drop in and that run score because of the great game Corbin had pitched.”
Shive pitched around a one-out, two-base error in the seventh inning and escaped jams in each of the final two frames.
He allowed a one-out walk in the eighth, fired a wild pitch and went to a 3-0 count against ninth-place hitter Tyler Smith. Shive struck out Smith on a 3-2 fastball and induced a groundout to second base.
Sumter’s Cam Martin reached on an error to begin the bottom half of the ninth inning, but Caldwell hit into a 4-6-3 double play involving second baseman Philip Miclat and shortstop Preston Troutman.
“It was hit pretty hard and had a lot of topspin, and I did what you’re not supposed to do ó I kind of backed up into it,” Miclat said. “It just caught me in the gut, but it stayed there, so it was kind of a perfect bounce. Trout did a good job turning it. It was just pressure all game, and it was pretty crazy.”
Montgomery allowed one hit in each of the first three innings but retired the final 10 batters he faced following a one-out walk in the fourth. Five of the first six hitters in the span struck out.
Jones, following the doctor’s wish, pulled Montgomery after 103 pitches and sent Broome out for the eighth.
Shive had back-to-back strikeouts to begin Sumter’s half of the first inning, but he didn’t record another one until the eighth. Two late visits from Gantt and an active bullpen were only precautionary measures.
“Nobody was scoring,” Shive said. “All you could do was try to go out there and put another zero up on the board, match what (Montgomery) did. I just kept throwing until we scored.”