F&M Classic: A.L. Brown 6, South 5
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — A sleepy game turned intense late.
South Rowan scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh but still fell to rival A.L. Brown 6-5.
“You know how it goes,” said Brown coach Empsy Thompson. “We’ve played very hard these last three weeks, but we always do make it interesting.”
South (10-11) beat the Wonders 9-4 on March 10, but Brown is playing its best ball right now.
Meanwhile, South is in a frustrating stretch. It stranded 27 baserunners while losing three tight games in the F&M Bank Classic at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium.
“Some very tough losses,” South junior Matt Miller said. “Every game it took us a while to get started, but we always left it on the field.”
Dylan Goodman, Eric Tyler, Jacob Dietz and Cory Deason all had two hits for the Raiders, but the Wonders (5-19) grimly hung on.
“We played hard in the seventh inning, but they played hard the whole game,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “They deserved to win.”
Brown was the sharper team defensively and also was 6-for-6 on stolen-base attempts. Tyler, South’s regular catcher, got a semi-day off as the DH, and the Wonders were aggressive on the bases.
South broke on top in the second inning when Cory Deason doubled — the only one of the game’s 23 hits that went for extra bases — and scored on starting pitcher Preston Penninger’s single.
Tyler Sides and Quin Gill produced RBIs for the Wonders in the third, and pitchers Eldon Peters and Michael Church maintained that 2-1 lead all the way to the sixth.
That’s when Brown added three more runs, bunching four singles and a walk. Chase Hardin, jayvee callup Micah Miller and Zach Jones drove in runs.
“Young guys like Miller have really given us a spark of late,” Thompson said.
Church walked Deason leading off the South sixth, and Penninger drove a long fly ball to center that was nearly disastrous for the Wonders. May was in center field.
“I didn’t see the ball off the bat, and I completely lost it,” he said. “I heard (left fielder) Zach Jones yelling for me to keep going back, and at the last second, I found it.”
One of South’s six errors gave Ryan Blackmon a chance to hit in the seventh, and he knocked in May for a 6-1 lead. But it still got wild in the bottom half. Thompson had to turn to May, his ace, after Goodman singled and Tyler Kowalczyk walked to open the frame.
May walked Tyler to fill the bases. May struck out Dietz on a breaking ball, but Miller ripped a two-run single to make it 6-3.
“Their pitchers threw balls just out of the strike zone all day, and we obliged them by swinging,”Chrismon said. “In the seventh,we showed determination, found some life.”
Deason popped up for the second out, but Jordan Kennerly’s two-run single made it 6-5. May then got two quick strikes on Bubba McLaughlin, but after a conversation with Chrismon, he punched a single to right field.
“I was going fastball-curve-fastball-curve, and they figured out my pitching pattern,” May said. “And when I’d get two strikes, they got on top of the plate and took the outside pitch away. They were dang tough. I changed my pattern, mixed in some changeups.”
May won a struggle with Parker Hubbard to end it. Hubbard fouled off five pitches before May got him on a curve that bit the dirt.
“I snapped off the hardest curveball I could,” May said. “One of the best ones I’ve thrown in my life. We needed it.”