American Legion Baseball Southeast Regional: Buchanan was on top of his game
By David Shaw
SUMTER, S.C. ó Forrest Buchanan knew exactly what he was getting himself into Saturday.
The tall Rowan right-hander was entrusted with the keys to his team’s future ó and the big, humidity-saturated stage brought out an even bigger performance.
“We’d seen them play earlier (in the Southeast Regional),” Buchanan said with a Cheshire-cat grin. “And we had a pretty good idea what to expect. What we didn’t know is how we’d respond after (Friday’s) last-inning loss.”
Still reeling from an 8-7 defeat to Alabama, Rowan asked Buchanan and his 8-0 record to extend its once-in-a-blue-moon season. And right from the first inning of yesterday’s 15-0 rout of South Carolina champion Irmo-Chapin, he was on the case. Using a streamlined fastball, occasional-but-effective curve and a tricky, butterfly changeup, Buchanan hurled six scoreless innings and had a no-hitter for 52/3 of them.
“He kept his pitches in the strike zone and got them to chase every once in a while,” said Rowan catcher Matt Miller. “He kept them off-balance, kept them guessing. From the first inning, you could tell he was on.”
Buchanan ó who struck out three, walked one and induced 10 flyouts ó allowed only three Irmo-Chapin baserunners. After retiring the first nine oposing batters, he yielded a leadoff walk to Alex Kirby in the last of the fourth inning. When Kirby advanced to second on a groundout, he became the first of only two South Carolina runners to reach scoring position. An inning later Buchanan hit Joshua Miller with a pitch, but escaped unharmed.
“You can’t say enough about our pitcher,” said Rowan coach Jim Gantt. “He got ’em in on the hands some and he had ’em out in front some ó with all the popups.”
Did Gantt notice any now-or-never pressure in Buchanan?
“Nah, he was loose,” Gantt said. “Even as he was pitching a no-hitter, he’d come in the dugout between innings and be talking, telling jokes and everything else.”
Meanwhile, out on the mound Buchanan was quietly and efficiently defining what great pitching is. South Carolina’s only hit came with two away in the last of the sixth inning, when Will Keel beat out a bouncer to deep shortstop. Preston Troutman’s long throw from the hole arrived a split-second late.
“The next inning (Buchanan) was kidding around about it,” said Miller. “Like everyone else, he was just trying to keep from getting too hot.”
On a 95-degree day with the season on the line, Buchanan wasn’t about to melt in the postseason heat.
“You definitely get the feeling we needed this,” he said. “I’m glad I could help.”