Legion Baseball: Concord 6, South Rowan 5
By Paul Hershey
CONCORD — Few if any know for sure that such a thing called the Bermuda Triangle actually exists, but South Rowan’s American Legion team can painfully attest to the reality – at least for one night – of a Concord Triangle, because it fell victim to it.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, a sky-high popup disappeared from the sight of at least two South players and fell in between a total of three, allowing the winning run to score for Concord in a 6-5 decision Wednesday night at Central Cabarrus High School.
It was a brutal ending to another disappointing loss for South (2-7, 2-4). Desperate for any signs of good fortune, it got some early with a few gift runs in a four-run first inning, but it went to waste as a a trio of Concord homers erased the deficit and South’s offense went into shutdown mode.
“We’ve been in a lot of ballgames and just keep coming up short,” South coach Michael Lowman said. “It’s getting frustrating for me and I know (the players are) frustrated, but we just have to play better and find a way to win.
“There’s time, but as they say it’s getting late early. Every game we’re letting one slip by.”
This one slipped away in most unusual fashion.
Concord’s A.J. James greeted South reliever Dillon Atwell with a single to begin the ninth. James was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a groundout. Cleanup hitter Brandon Porter then sent the first pitch from Atwell high into the dark sky. It started out in foul territory down the third-base line, but drifted back into the field of play before landing in shallow left, about 10 feet inside the line and in between left fielder Dylan Walker, shortstop Gunnar Hogan and third baseman Jacob Dietz.
“I just thought it was going to be a whole lot more toward the fence,” Hogan said. “I started running back into fair territory and then I just lost it. It was just so high.”
High enough that James had easily crossed the plate with the winning run by the time the ball hit ground.
“That was a big-league popup,” Lowman said. “It was up there a long time. It’s a much easier play for Dylan than Gunnar but he just said he didn’t see it off the bat and got a late break and that was it.
“It kind of sums up not only the game, but the season so far.”
For Concord (4-2, 3-2), it was a bit of redemption after being on the losing end of a game decided in the ninth Tuesday night against Rowan.
“A win’s a win anyway you can get so we’ll definitely take it,” Concord coach Jaymie Russ said.
Concord mostly has starting pitcher Jamey Lee to thank for it. The righthander who just finished his freshman season at Catawba Valley Community College shook off three unearned runs in the first and made South’s hitters look bad the rest of the way.
“He did an amazing job of settling down and going right back at them,” Russ said.
Nine of Lee’s strikeouts came in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings alone.
“We just swung at bad pitches and didn’t really have good approaches at the plate after the first inning,” Hogan said. “He was getting us to swing at the curveball in the dirt. That was bascially it.”
Lowman called Lee’s work in the seventh the biggest inning of the game.
It was tied at 5-5 when Kyle Bridges dropped a leadoff double down the left-field line, setting it up for the middle of the order. But Lee got Maverick Miles, Joseph Basinger, Dietz to chase pitches and avoid any damage.
“He really went to that breaking ball when he got in trouble and we kept chasing it and kind of got him off the hook,” Lowman said.
“When we put the ball in play in the first they made some errors and then we just kind of quit putting the ball in play. But he did do a good job of settling in. He probably had the best breaking ball we’ve seen.”
South still had a chance to break the tie in the top of the ninth. Cliff issued a pair of walks with two outs, but Basinger flew out to right field.
There were four home runs in the game, but two of them took advantage of the short dimensions down the line.
James hit two of the four, driving solo shots to left-center in the first and down the left-field line in the fourth. Ethan Ledbetter hit a two-run shot to a spot similiar to the latter in the third.
After James’ second homer tied it the game at 4-4, a misplay in the outfield gave Concord an extra base and led to the go-ahead scoring on a two-out single.
Walker quickly tied it back up with the lone South homer leading off the sixth.
The three homers were about the only damage South starter Jesse Park allowed in eight innings.
“Jesse pitched great,” Lowman said. “He did as much as he can do. He competed for eight innings and gave us a chance to win the ballgame.”
NOTES: The first five hitters in South’s lineup each had one hit. Walker’s homer was the lone hit for the bottom four…. Miles doubled home South’s first run. The other three runs in the inning scored on errors… South makes the lone trip to Wilkes tonight.