F&M Classic: Mount Pleasant 10, South Rowan 7
By David Shaw
KANNAPOLIS — It’s third-and-long for South Rowan in the F&M Bank Baseball Classic.
The Raiders suffered their second straight defeat in this Rowan-Cabarrus series Thursday night, falling 10-7 to Mount Pleasant. They’ll need a victory against A.L. Brown in this afternoon’s final inter-county challenge to avoid coming home empty-handed.
“It’s always nice to win a trophy for your county,” South catcher Eric Tyler said at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, where Rowan fell behind 6-2 on the leader board. “There just weren’t enough balls bouncing our way tonight.”
South’s fortunes fluctuated like the stock market against Mount Pleasant (15-6). The Raiders (10-10) fell behind early, then rallied to take a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the third inning. MP secured the win when infielder Grayson Atwood — a senior recruited and signed by the University of North Carolina — crunched a cloud-scraping, three-run homer in the top of the sixth.
“He just squared that one up,” said winning coach Bryan Tyson.
It was the second home run of the game for the Tigers. Teammate Anthony Allende — a Catawba signee — went deep against SR starter Matt Miller with two on and one out in the first inning.
“He threw me three straight fastballs,” Allende said after depositing a 1-2 pitch into the right-field bullpen. “So I was looking for something offspeed. But instead he threw another fastball, outer-half, belly-high. I wasn’t sure if I even hit it that well.”
Miller struggled to locate pitches in the opening inning and tip-toed through land mines in the second, third and fourth frames. He allowed Atwood’s RBI-single just two batters before Allende unloaded, then pitched three scoreless innings and was replaced by righthander Daniel Mullis when his pitch count reached 85.
“(Miller) did all right,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “They’re a good-hitting team and if you make a mistake, they’re going to put a good swing on it. They made us pay.”
Tyler, who collected two of South’s 11 hits, said Miller left too many pitches out over the plate.
“I think he got a couple of them elevated and they capitalized,” Tyler said. “They hit the ball gap-to-gap. In this park, that can be dangerous.”
South scored a pair of unearned runs against MP freshman Ryan Ross in the bottom of the second, then batted around and scored four times to take a two-run lead in third. Cory Deason provided a run-scoring single, Jordan Kennerly coaxed a bases-loaded walk and Parker Hubbard served a two-out, two-run single — on an 0-2 pitch — into shallow center field.
“I thought our guys swung the bats well,” Chrismon said. “I look at somebody like (Tyler) Kowalczyk. He’s stroking it, even when he makes outs. Deason hit a couple balls hard. And Matt hit a double down the line and another base hit.”
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to fend off Mount Pleasant’s 14-hit attack.
“It was about what we expected,” Tyson said afterward. “South Rowan’s a good little team. They scrap and don’t quit. And Miller’s a class act. He pounds the strike zone. He just ran into a team that’s finally healing and swinging the bat really, really well.”
NOTES: Allende, the winning pitcher, suffered a left wrist injury when he fouled off a pitch against the Raiders earlier this season. Last night he struck out four, walked none and allowed one run in 41/3 innings of relief. …. Kowalczyk, Dietz and Miller had two hits apiece for South, losers of three straight games.