Legion Baseball: Rowan 8, Kannapolis 2
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — Rowan County American Legion pitcher Thomas Allen got some unexpected help from his changeup — and from Miss Rowan County.
Thomas struck out 10 and threw six dominating innings at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium in an 8-2 win against Kannapolis that finally got under way after an 81-minute delay for lightning and rain.
The right-hander needed just 74 pitches to navigate those first six frames during which he allowed one measly single and no walks.
“I didn’t feel like my fastball was working,” Allen said. “This was the first time this summer I’ve really relied a lot on my changeup.”
As far as Miss Rowan County, Elizabeth Safrit, an A.L. Brown graduate wearing the Miss Rowan County sash, expressed neutrality in the matchup. After appearing in the Faith Fourth of July parade, she traveled to FCS, waited out the weather delay and then tossed a respectable ceremonial first pitch.
She then seated herself behind the screen just a few feet from the Kannapolis on-deck circle and likely created something of a distraction for Post 115 hitters, who already were having a difficult time with Allen’s changeups.
Ms. Safrit doesn’t appear in the Monday’s boxscore, although Allen’s dominance will be pretty obvious.
“Allen controlled the ballgame,” Kannapolis coach Matt Stack said. “The guy’s good and he was locating, but we took way too many third strikes on the outside corner.”
Lefty Rob Bain, who pitched often for Northwest Cabarrus against East Rowan, knew most of Rowan’s hitters, but they also knew him. In the first three innings, Rowan had seven solid hits and two wicked lineouts, one caught by leaping shortstop Josh Martin, one grabbed in an act of pure self-defense by Bain, who was knocked backwards.
That snag by Bain cost Rowan’s Justin Morris a cycle. Morris homered in the first, tripled in the seventh and doubled in the eighth.
“We’ve faced Bain a lot, and we know him as a changeup pitcher,” Morris said. “But I was looking for a fastball that first time up and he tried to get one in on my hands.”
Morris’ homer gave Rowan (18-6, 12-4), which clinched a tie for first place, the lead, and it held it. Luke Thomas’ RBI double in the third made it 2-0. Matt Mauldin, Taylor Garczynski and Avery Rogers had two-out hits in a four-run seventh to finally bust it open.
Allen said his arm felt “a little dead” after Rowan’s long top of the seventh was followed by the extended version of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic “God Bless the USA” on the P.A.
Kannapolis had its one shot in the bottom of the seventh, scoring twice and then loading the bases. But Caleb Henley relieved Allen and fanned Will Miller to end the threat.
“Caleb had the best fastball he’s had all year,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “That was the biggest out. That out was probably the difference in this ballgame.”