Prep Baseball: South Rowan 19, West Rowan 14
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — It was a baseball game that could’ve pleaded temporary insanity.
Maybe all you need to know about South Rowan’s 19-14 NPC win against West Rowan on Wednesday is that reliever Daniel Mullis allowed nine runs in 11/3 innings and was the winning pitcher.
The county rivals combined for 25 — count ’em, 25 — runs in a Twilight-Zone seventh inning. West rallied for nine tallies in the bottom half of that frazzled frame and still came up well short.
“It was a pretty good little baseball game — until the seventh,” winning coach Thad Chrismon said. “Then it went off the map, but we still got the ‘W’ we were looking for.”
Despite the final score, West senior Steven Wetmore, who started on the mound, was close to brilliant on Senior Night, and South starter Preston Penninger was very good.
“I was getting them out a lot with curveballs,” Penninger said. “I could spot my curveball.”
Both starting hurlers worked around defensive bobbles as the early innings flew by. Madison Osborne’s ringing RBI double in the fifth lifted the Falcons within a run, and he scored on a two-out error to tie the game at 3-3.
Reliever Chase Laing shut out South in the sixth, and the Falcons (3-16, 2-9) caught a huge break in the bottom of the inning when South miscommunicated on a comebacker that could’ve been a double-play ball. That miscue handed West two runs.
West carried that 5-3 lead into the seventh, and that’s when all heck broke loose.
Parker Hubbard was due to lead off the seventh for South, and he was a good guy to have up there. He’d already turned in an awesome game in the field, saving at least two runs.
“Making those diving plays, we call them belly plays, is something we emphasize in practice,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard, the No. 9 hitter, singled. That was the start.
“When we’re down late in the game, we talk about doing your job, just getting on base, and then passing it down to the next man,” Hubbard said.
Dylan Goodman’s solid double cut West’s lead to 5-4. Then Tyler Kowalczyk singled and Eric Tyler was hit by a pitch. Now the bases were loaded, still with none out, and Jacob Dietz rapped a bouncer to third baseman Chandler Jones.
West had a chance to execute a 5-2-3 double play that probably would’ve halted the rally, but Jones’ throw was a little high and glanced off the raised mitt of catcher Steven Crandall. Everyone was safe, and it was 5-5.
“Probably 99 times out of a hundred Steven catches it, but this can be a cruel game,” Jones said.
It got cruel indeed.
Matt Miller’s RBI single put South in front, and a merry-go-round of walks, HBPs, wild pitches and hits followed against four pitchers. The fourth-place Raiders (10-7, 7-4) sent 19 to the plate in the inning and scored 16 times. Penninger and Bubba McLaughlin hit balls into the trees. Hubbard finally made the third out on his third at-bat of the inning.
“Now that’s crazy,” he said.
Penninger had flirted with homers twice to center before belting a three-run shot.
“I was just a little out front on the first two,” he said. “But in the seventh, I figured he’d try to get ahead with a fastball and I was looking for it.”
Down 19-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh, and with Mullis, who has been tough all year on the mound, West still didn’t roll over. Ace Matt Miller had to come in to nail down the final out.
Twelve Falcons went to the plate to produce those nine runs. Four came on one mighty swing by Jones — a majestic grand slam on the slugger’s last at-bat on his home field.
“None of us wanted it to end,” an emotional Jones said. “We just put on our chop hats and started battling. I still don’t feel like we lost. We just ran out of innings.”
As tough as this season’s been for West coach Chad Parker, he was moved by the fight his team showed.
“We did score nine runs in the seventh,” Parker said. “That’s just a testament to the kind of guys we have.”
Chrismon tipped his cap.
“Mullis is used to being in close games, and maybe he didn’t have his edge,” Chrismon said. “But credit West. Just a great effort by them.”