F&M Classic: A.L. Brown 11, West Rowan 10
By Paul Herhsey
KANNAPOLIS — Fans in attendance at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium for Thursday’s late afternoon game of the F&M Bank High School Classic probably saw it coming.
West Rowan coach Chad Parker definitely did.
As the Falcons and A.L. Brown took turns putting up runs against each other, it felt like the team with the last chance at the plate would win.
Despite West’s best efforts, that’s exactly how it played out as the Wonders scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to prevail 11-10.
Quin Gill’s two-run single with the based loaded and one out provided the game-winner.
“We’ve been on the flip side of that quite a few times this year and our kids played hard,” Brown coach Empsy Thompson said. “But so did West. They put themselves in a great situation and we just made some things happen at the end.”
The Wonders’ rally finished off an entertaining, seesaw game between two traditional powers nearing the end of bad seasons. Each team scored in five of the seven innings and neither team led by more than two at any point.Hoping to follow up on Wednesday’s win over Northwest Cabarrus with another victory, West (4-18) again had its bats working, but couldn’t get the necessary outs at the end.
“Whoever at the last at-bat was probably going to win,” Parker said. “That’s kind of how the game went. I knew they hit last and we were going to have to work hard to finish the deal. It just didn’t go our way.”
Walks by West pitching helped Brown early in the game and did so again in the seventh.
After the Wonders scored two runs in the each of the first four frames, freshman Nick Collins blanked them in the fifth and sixth. However, he walked the leadoff man in the seventh, then didn’t get a call on an inside pitch to Zach Jones and walked him.
Parker turned to Chase Laing at that point and he induced a forceout at third, then pitched around Dylan May, who was 3 for 3, to load the bases. Laing’s 2-2 breaking ball to Ryan Blackmon was close, but called a ball and Blackmon walked on the next pitch to make it 10-9.
“Two walks at the end on some pretty tough pitches,” Parker said. “It is what it is. That’s about all I can say.”
Gill followed and ripped an 0-1 pitch to left past the drawn-in infield. May probably would’ve scored anyway, but left fielder Ethan Wansley didn’t field it cleanly, eliminating any drama.
“(Collins) came out and for two innings put zeroes up and put our backs against the wall,” Thompson said. “But our kids gave themselves a chance and we got a big hit at the end by Gill. That kid has made some huge strides at the plate and just so happened to be in a great situation and you’ve got to love when he’s up at the plate and they’ve got to pitch to him.”
Brown (4-19) did its damage in the first four innings by taking advantage of walks with aggressive baserunning and getting two-out hits.
Tyler Sides stole home for the first run of the game and twice Kannapolis runners went from first to third on hit-and-run plays and both ended up scoring on sacrifice flys.
Gill singled home a run in the first, May had an RBI triple in the second, Chase Hardin drove in another with a single in the third and Caleb Jackson plated two in the fourth – all of them with two outs.
“We put ourselves in some good situations and played aggressive,” Thompson said. “They went out and played hard and they did a good job of (executing).”
West, meanwhile, countered by getting production throughout its lineup and capitalizing on five Brown errors. The Falcons didn’t pound the ball, but found plenty of holes on the sizeable Fieldcrest Stadium field.
They took a 3-2 lead in the second on an RBI single by Laing and a two-run blooper by Taylor Garcynzski. After the Wonders took a 4-3 lead, another run-scoring single by Laing in the third tied it.
West later trailed 8-6 before scoring three in the fifth. An error to start the inning opened the door and Laing and Hunter Teeter followed with back-to-back doubles before a two-run single by Chandler Jones made it 9-8.
Teeter’s RBI single in the sixth gave the Falcons the two-run lead.
The Falcons totaled 13 hits against five Brown pitchers, with each starter getting at least one hit and all but one either scoring a run or driving one in. Laing led the way, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“Fortunately our bats have woken up,” Parker said. “We’re swinging a lot better going into the conference tournament so you’ve got to be happy about that.”
Brown finished with 12 hits, with May, Hardin and Jackson each collecting three. May was a home run away from hitting for the cycle, but was walked in his last two at-bats – one of them intentionally.
West missed a chance to increase its lead in the sixth, leaving the bases loaded when Brown reliever Eldon Peters got an inning-ending groundout.
“We didn’t make pitches when we needed to or plays when we needed to,” Parker said. “It wasn’t just the last inning. It was the whole game.”
NOTES: West wraps up play in the tournament at 10 a.m. today against Mount Pleasant… Brown plays rival South Rowan at 4 p.m