Legion baseball: Kannapolis 11, South Rowan 9
By Mike London
LANDIS — It’s a shame right fielders can’t be credited with saves.
Kannapolis’ Zach Jones earned one with a sprawling catch of a two-out, two-on line drive in the ninth that preserved a wild 11-9 road win against South Rowan.
“We needed to make something happen,” Jones said. “I was going to give all I had to make that catch.”
He made it, and Kannapolis (4-9, 4-10) managed to win an entertaining game that kept its playoff hopes alive. Kannapolis sent 53 men to the plate and pounded 18 hits but stranded 15 baserunners.
“We seem to find ways to make things interesting,” said left fielder Will Miller, who smacked his first two homers of the summer. “But we all swung the bats well tonight.”
Jones and Wes Honeycutt also went deep for Kannapolis, which grabbed the lead for good on Honeycutt’s fourth-inning blast off Matt Miller that snapped a 2-2 tie.
South (8-14, 7-10) struggled in the field with five errors.
“We didn’t play well enough to win this ballgame, either defensively or running the bases,” South coach Michael Lowman said. “Kannapolis swings the bats well. We gave them extra outs, and they really took advantage.”
There was an interesting moment in the first inning when South’s Gunnar Hogan ripped a two-run homer on a fastball from winning pitcher Josh Martin, his buddy and a prep teammate at Carson.
“Josh has talked crap for years about how he’d strike me out of he ever pitched to me,” Hogan said with a grin. “I’ll get to talk some crap for years now. In fact, I’ll probably invite him over tonight.”
It’s been an unusually crappy summer for Kannapolis, Area III champion in 2003, 2004 and 2006, but now a program with no practice field. Kannapolis plays home games at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium and Webb Field, but when Post 115 has an off day — it’s been a literal day off from baseball. It’s been a serious handicap not being able to practice.
Kannapolis coach Matt Stack desperately managed Friday’s game like it was Game 7 of the World Series. His moves paid off, especially in the seventh when South threatened to catch up.
Jones’ homer gave Kannapolis a 6-4 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh.
That’s when Connor Bridges singled for South with one out and Gunnar Hogan followed with a triple past diving center fielder Dylan May to make it 6-5. With Hogan, the tying run at third, Stack ordered an intentional walk of Maverick Miles. One pitch sailed way wide, but Hogan missed a chance to score.
Stack then summoned southpaw May from center field to face lefty-hitting Dylan Walker. May struck him out, the only K registered by Kannapolis hurlers against the 47 batters South sent up.
Then May returned to center, and righty Caleb Jackson relieved and got a grounder from righty-hitting Parker Hubbard to end the threat.
“We just had to play all the percentages,” Stack said. “Guys made big pitches. That was the pivotal inning.”
Kannapolis scored five times in the eighth to lead 11-5, but it wasn’t over. South got two in the bottom half.
Jarrin Hogue came on to close it in the ninth, but with two men out, Weston Smith, a Northwest Cabarrus product playing against many teammates, delivered his fourth hit of the night to drive in a run.
Kyle Bridges reached on an error to extend the game, and Dylan Goodman singled home Smith to make it 11-9.
South had runners at first and second when Connor Bridges drilled a liner to right. The game would’ve been tied if the ball had gotten past a sliding Jones, but he snagged the baseball right off the grass to end a thriller.
“I asked the guys to play with chemistry and have some fun,” Stack said. “We had a lot of spark about us tonight.”