Legion World Series: Rowan 8, Mt. Airy 3
By Bret Strelow
FARGO, N.D. ó Rowan County catcher Austin Shull handled a ceremonial first pitch from 90-year-old Bob Feller, then worked with a batterymate who drew inspiration from the Hall of Famer.
Forrest Buchanan tossed seven effective innings and Zach Smith closed the scoring with a two-run homer as Rowan remained alive in the American Legion World Series with an 8-3 victory against Mt. Airy (Md.) late Saturday night.
Buchanan (10-0) listened closely as Feller addressed the eight qualifying teams at a Thursday night banquet.
“He gave a pretty good speech, so I just tried to follow his advice to just believe in yourself,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan allowed six hits and one earned run in a complete-game effort for Rowan, which will play the loser of this morning’s early game between Southern Nevada and Midland (Mich.) in the day’s third contest at approximately 3 p.m. EDT.
All three games contested Saturday ó including Rowan’s 6-5 loss to Festus (Mo.) in the opener ó were shortened to seven innings because of storms that have thrown off the tournament schedule.
A two-run bloop single in the ninth inning pushed Rowan into the losers bracket of the double-elimination event, and its second game started at 9:20 p.m. EDT. Feller’s offering to Shull made it almost the entire 60-foot, 6-inch distance to home plate.
“It was unreal and something I will never forget,” Shull said. “It was amazing being able to shake hands with one of the best pitchers that’s ever thrown in a game, just thinking in his prime throwing 107 (mph) off the mound. I feel honored to be able to catch the first pitch.”
Mt. Airy (38-17) posted two runs in the top of the first inning, but Russell Michalec scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first and Rowan (38-9) took the lead for good with a three-run second.
Corbin Shive reached on an error, Philip Miclat was hit by a pitch and Preston Troutman loaded the bases with a single. Shull drew a walk to tie the game, and Miclat raced home on a wild pitch. A two-out error on a grounder by Michalec enabled Shull to score for a 4-2 advantage.
Troutman put down a perfect bunt for a single with two runners aboard in the third inning, and an errant throw to first sent Jon Crucitti to the plate.
Trey Holmes bounced into a potential inning-ending double play with the bases loaded but beat the relay throw to first. Shive crossed home for a 6-2 lead.
Holmes has been hobbled since fouling a pitch off his foot at the Southeast Regional in Sumter, S.C.
“It’s not feeling great, but it’s still not killing me,” Holmes said. “I guess I hit it high enough on the bounce that I was able to get a little bit of time in there.”
Buchanan retired the first two batters of the fifth inning before running into trouble. A triple preceded an RBI double by Doug Anuszewski, who moved to third on an error. A plunked batter loaded the bases, and Nick Hallis hit a blooper toward shallow center field.
With Crucitti racing in, Miclat darted back from his spot at second base and made an over-the-shoulder catch while falling to the turf.
A hit in that situation draws Mt. Airy within 6-5.
“I guess it was hit off the end ó somebody capped it ó and I thought Jon had a play on it first,” Miclat said. “I ran out there just in case because of what happened in the first game, and I guess the wind killed it and it started dying. I looked at Jon and saw he wasn’t close to it, then looked up and saw it was right on top of me. I’m just glad I came down with it.”
Rowan padded its lead with a two-run sixth inning.
Michalec tripled and trotted home on Smith’s no-doubt homer to left.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Smith said while holding the home-run ball. “I’ll probably put this up somewhere safe.”
Buchanan exited Newman Outdoor Field with a gameball tucked away in his back pocket.
Two Rowan errors helped Mt. Airy’s offensive cause, but Buchanan retired seven of the last eight hitters.
“I think you have to have the temperament of Forrest Buchanan to be able to pitch with the defense like that behind him tonight,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “He handled it, kept making pitches and thank goodness Miclat had a good game. He had the play of the game.”
NOTES: Gantt named Troutman, who faced the final three Festus batters in a short relief stint, and Cody Laws when discussing Rowan’s pitching options for today. … Southern Nevada (63-12) and Midland (50-8) won opening-round games Friday. … Second-round play began with Medford (Ore.) claiming a 5-0 win against Berlin (Conn.) on Saturday evening. Left-handed pitcher Jordan Lewis improved to 44-4 in his career and 12-1 this season with a six-hit shutout in the seven-inning contest. He has thrown 41 consecutive scoreless innings.