Legion baseball: Stanly 6, South Rowan 5
By Mike London
LANDIS — “I mean anything travels that far oughta have a stewardess on it, don’t you think?”
So spoke Kevin Costner, playing the role of catcher Crash Davis in the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham,” and so spoke just about everyone gathered at the South Rowan baseball field for Friday’s American Legion game.
Stanly County slugger Corey Dick, who hit 18 homers and batted .605 for Albemarle in the high school season, socked a baseball where people don’t hit them — a soaring drive over the fence in dead center. That’s normally Death Valley at South Rowan, but Dick’s drive exited the park at the 400-foot marker.
“That’s an unbelievable hitter right there,” said South’s Matt Miller. “He put a great swing on it. That was a shot.”
Dick’s gargantuan homer in the eighth didn’t decide the game, but his mighty swing set the stage for the ninth-inning events that did determine Stanly’s dramatic 6-5 victory.
Colten Burris’ three-run double — on the heels of an intentional walk to Dick — lifted the visitors when they were down to their last out.
It was the fourth one-run setback for South (3-10, 2-6) in league play.
“Coach (Michael) Lowman told us to go all out and we’d see what our team was made of,” said veteran right fielder Maverick Miles, who added three more hits to his program record. “We know we have a good team, but it’s like we’re losing 3-2, 4-3, 6-5 every game. We haven’t gotten over the hump yet. It’s been frustrating.”
All the mayhem came late. Starting pitchers Russ Weiker (Stanly) and Dylan Walker (South) dominated, and it was 1-1 through seven.
“Dylan gave us a chance to win the ballgame,” Lowman said. “He made some big pitches with men on base.”
Stanly (5-4, 3-3) had runners at second and third with one out against Walker in both the second and the fourth, but the lefty escaped unscathed. Second baseman Parker Hubbard helped him out with a diving stop in the fourth.
“Walker kept the ball down and hit spots well,” Burris said. “His changeup was good, and he had us off-balance.”
Weiker never had a 1-2-3 inning but South couldn’t produce a key hit.
“He was pretty good,” Lowman said of the rising junior, who won 14 games with a 1.66 ERA for 1A runner-up South Stanly in the prep season. “He got us to hit a lot of groundballs by throwing changeups in fastball counts. We knew what his plan would be, but we didn’t adjust very well.”
Gunnar Hogan’s RBI single scored Joseph Basinger in the third, and Walker held that 1-0 lead until the fifth when Stanly’s Matt Huneycutt smacked a solo homer.
Southpaw Jesse Park relieved Walker for the eighth, and after Jace Whitley reached on an error, Dick unloaded his tape-measure homer for a 3-1 Stanly lead.
That wasn’t the knockout punch, though.
South finally got to Weiker in its half of the eighth. After Kyle Bridges and Miller reached base, a passed ball on an 0-2 pitch moved up both runners. Dylan Goodman, the young center fielder, then came through with a huge hit — a two-out line single to right-center that scored two and gave South a 3-3 tie.
Miles’ long triple plated Goodman with a go-ahead run, and Miles raced home on a passed ball for a 5-3 lead.
South just needed three outs. It couldn’t find them.
Park got one of the three, allowed a single and was replaced by Dillon Atwell.
Atwell got a strikeout on a nice breaking ball for the second out — Basinger blocked strike three in the dirt — but a single to center put runners on the corners. Then Dick walked to the plate, representing the go-ahead run.
Coaches despise putting the run that can beat them on base, and Lowman has read the book of baseball at least a thousand times. But he’d already seen what the lefty-swinging Dick could do, and he had a very young right-hander on the mound.
Tough decision. Lowman ordered an intentional pass of Dick to fill the bases to allow Atwell to pitch to Burris, a right-handed hitter. It didn’t work out. Burris, a rising sophomore at Campbell University, was facing a kid who is a rising soph at Carson.
That’s a big experience edge. Burris got a pitch up, and he crushed a double to deep center. The blow cleared the bases. Stanly led 6-5.
“A lot of people walk Corey to pitch to me, but it doesn’t always work out this well,” Burris said. “I hit that ball about as hard as I can hit one, but it still didn’t go out of here the way Corey’s did.”
South couldn’t rally in its half of the ninth. Jordan Kennerly led off with a walk and Patrick Hampton bunted him to second, but Burris retired Bridges and Hubbard.
“I’ve got to give it to my teammates for coming back,” Miller said. “But it turned into another very tough loss.”