Legion Baseball: Rowan 15, Randolph 11
By Mike London
SALISBURY — The umpires arrived late, and many fans exited Newman Park early.
In between those events, Rowan County rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat Randolph County 15-11 in a lengthy American Legion game played on Thursday. Randolph supporters probably made it home from the marathon around midnight.
The non-division game had been rescheduled from Sunday’s rainout, which may explain why the umpires arrived at about 7:30 to the only cheers they would receive. It was mostly groans after that, with a dozen pitchers combining to issue 20 walks.
“I guess the headline will be ‘Rowan Walks to Victory,’” sighed coach Jim Gantt, who may have a future as a sportswriter. “It was a long one. The good news is we did hang in there and we came back.”
Shortstop Justin Morris, a normal-sized guy who has suddenly become a masher, had a two-run homer, a two-run double and a bases-loaded walk for a five-RBI night to lead Rowan. Will Sapp drove in three runs. Sapp, Morris, Luke Thomas, Matt Laurens, Jared Mathis and Nolan Meyerhoeffer had two hits apiece in a 16-hit onslaught.
“It’s hard to hit with that many walks in a game,” Gantt said. “We’ve got to find a way to make better contact with men on base, but we did show some patience at times.”
Rowan (8-2) won its sixth in a row but was in a mess after Daniel Massey drilled a bases-loaded triple on a 3-1 pitch to spark a five-run Randolph second. Rowan didn’t catch up until the sixth. By then, with watches ticking, skies darkening, and lightning flashing, a lot of seats that had been filled were empty.
“It didn’t look good when it was 11-4, but I don’t think anyone in our dugout ever stopped believing we’d come back,” Sapp said. “Maybe not all the fans thought we could do it, but I guess we showed them wrong.”
Rowan needed some help to have a chance and got it from Randolph’s bullpen. Rowan accepted six consecutive walks in a brutal five-run fifth that cut the daunting deficit down to 11-9.
“Sometimes when they throw one strike, we just start swinging, but we kept taking pitches and were able to put the pressure on their pitcher,” Gantt said.
Gantt got about as upset as you’ll ever see him get when Alex Morgan’s sinking liner to center was turned into a double play by Randolph’s Zach Frye, who doubled a Rowan runner off third base to end the fifth. Gantt didn’t dispute the diving catch, but he was certain Morris had legally tagged up at third, and his run should’ve counted.
Rowan didn’t lose momentum, however, because winner Alex Bost, Rowan’s third pitcher, put a zero on the board in the sixth.
“It’s been rough,” Bost said. “I looked at the scoreboard, saw how much we were down and just stopped thinking. I just threw — just let it go.”
Rowan tied it 11-11 on a throwing error on Avery Rogers’ nice bunt and went up 13-11 when Morris socked a pitch out of sight over the wall in left.
“That guy’s pitches had all been tailing, but that one stayed straight down the middle,” Morris said. “I’ve gotten some pitches served up lately.”
Sapp’s clutch, two-out, two-run double in the seventh made it 15-11, and Rowan got scoreless relief innings from Caleb Henley, Bradley Robbins and Will Johnson to close it out.”
“It’s easy to get lost in a long game like that,” Morris said. “But we stayed concentrated.”