American Legion Southeast Regional: Rowan 13, Georgia 0: Rowan makes final day
By Bret Strelow
SUMTER, S.C. ó Clyde Young exited Riley Park halfway through the fifth inning and walked to his car, which was parked just outside the main entrance.
Rowan County American Legion fans rose to their feet as Young, seated behind the wheel with the driver’s side door open, played his well-traveled trumpet.
“God Bless America” is often performed during the seventh-inning stretch, but Young took creative steps to entertain the crowd with Rowan on the verge of another abbreviated victory.
Rowan advanced to the final day of the Southeast Regional with a 13-0 win against Conyers (Ga.) Post 77. Trey Holmes’ three-run homer in the second inning produced a 5-0 lead, and starting pitcher Nick Smith allowed three hits in six innings.
Rowan, which lost 8-7 to Tuscaloosa (Ala.) on the second day of the double-elimination event, prevailed 15-0 against Irmo-Chapin (S.C.) on Saturday and extended its streak of unanswered runs scored to 28 in a second contest shortened to seven innings by the mercy rule.
“It’s got everything to do with the guys on the mound,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Not disrespecting anybody, but it’s been fourth and fifth starters and bullpen guys because everybody is trying to use everybody they have to win early and stay in the winners bracket. We’ve been able to get to some pitchers that weren’t as quality as some of the guys we saw early.”
Rowan (35-8) has posted a shutout in each of its three regional victories, and it faces tournament host Sumter (27-10) today at 4 p.m. in an elimination game. The winner will then meet Tuscaloosa (50-7) in a championship game to decide which team qualifies for the 2009 World Series that starts Friday in Fargo, N.D.
Sumter used a seven-run eighth inning to claim a 9-7 win against previously unbeaten Tuscaloosa on Sunday night. Sumter coach Wallie Jones didn’t tab a starter for today’s opener, but he said left-hander Jordan Montgomery will be available.
Gantt said staff ace Corbin Shive (7-0) will start on the mound for Rowan. Shive tossed a three-hitter in a 1-0 duel with Montgomery on Thursday night, and better run support led to routs of the last two opponents.
Forrest Buchanan (9-0) allowed one hit in six innings against Irmo-Chapin, and Smith (6-1) struck out six batters Sunday.
“They’re not just flipping curveballs up there,” Gantt said. “They’re locating pitches and working on both sides of the plate. I thought Matt Miller and (Austin) Shull have done a great job with the game they’ve called.
“Their sequencing of pitches has been real good, and with a lead you can’t just throw it in there and let them beat it around the park.”
Conyers (31-6) started regional play with a 2-0 record thanks to a pair of complete-game shutouts. A three-run homer broke a tie in the ninth inning of a 7-4 loss to Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, and Conyers used six pitchers against Rowan.
Trey Holmes opened the game with a walk and scored on a single by brother Noah Holmes. Zach Smith came home on Billy Veal’s sacrifice fly.
Philip Miclat and Preston Troutman, who batted eighth and ninth in Rowan’s order, began the second inning with back-to-back singles off Travis Tarleton. Trey Holmes blasted a 2-0 fastball over the right-field wall for his 15th homer of the season.
“Taking nothing away from Georgia, they’re a good ballclub, but we hoped if we got on them quick after their suffocating loss they might fold just being worn out and exhausted,” said Holmes, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored. “We got on top of them early and didn’t stop until it was over.”
Russell Michalec sprinted home on a single by Veal and Smith scored on a wild pitch to establish a 7-0 lead, and Rowan added four more runs in the fourth inning. Jon Crucitti crossed first on a single by Miller, who was driven in by Troutman. Trey Holmes followed with an RBI double, and Michalec had an RBI groundout.
Miclat just missed a homer in the fifth inning and settled for a two-run double. The ball hit near the top of the left-field wall and ricocheted upward.
“From where I was at it kind of looked like it hit the top of the fence and bounced back in, so I really didn’t think it was a home run,” Miclat said.
A two-out error contributed to the only jam incurred by Nick Smith, but No. 3 batter Cameron Gibson grounded out with the bases loaded in the third inning.
Nick Woodward had reached on an infield single earlier in the inning, and Smith didn’t allow a clean hit until the fifth.
“The whole lineup coming through, putting up seven runs in two innings, that helped me a lot,” Smith said. “I hit my spots, and the changeup was working real well.
“You relax a whole lot knowing you have a big lead. Fill up the strike zone and let the defense do the work.”