Legion baseball: Cherryville 6, Rowan 4
By Ryan Bisesi
MOREHEAD CITY — A sound effort would be needed from Rowan to stave off elimination against a team as solid as Cherryville Monday night.
The consistency came in spurts for Rowan, which gained the lead twice during the bout between two American Legion heavyweights.
But Adam Benefield was complete.
The Cherryville starting pitcher won his 10th game of the year in the 6-4 Cherryville victory, going all nine innings and getting stronger as the game progressed.
Benefield, a rising sophomore at Western Carolina who was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome in the spring, was nearly paralyzed by the disorder.
Nobody who saw Monday’s performance would question the right-hander’s strength.
“The beginning of Legion season I was still a little weak and didn’t have my stamina,” Benefield said. “It’s good to see it coming back in time for the tournament here.”
Rowan was eliminated from the state tournament and had its season end after gaining a 3-0 lead after four innings.
Benefield retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced, leaving no room for a rally after his team gained the lead. A leadoff walk to Ashton Fleming in the ninth was the lone imperfection on what was an otherwise flawless final four innings.
“Late in the game, he pitched us inside with two strikes,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “He relieved himself, so to speak. Earlier in the game, he went the other way. He knew what he was doing.”
Cherryville, the Area IV champion the last five years and shooting for its first state title since 2007, got two unearned runs in the seventh that spelled doom for Rowan and would ultimately be the difference.
Rowan made two errors and allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch that snapped a 4-4 deadlock.
Drewery got a first-pitch double to start the inning, and Mosteller reached on an E6 that put runners at the corners with nobody out. Drewery crossed the plate on a misfire from Rowan starter Bradley Robbins, while Spencer Martin scored on a mishandle by Ashton Fleming at second.
“We certainly had a couple plays go that we can make and that was the difference in the game,” Gantt said. “When you make a mistake, they’re going to jump on you and that’s what they did.”
Robbins, who threw 11/3 innings of relief in Sunday’s victory against Morehead City, was exceptional in keeping Cherryville off the board for the initial four innings before hitting trouble.
“I was definitely surprised when they named me the starter today,” Robbins admitted.
Robbins, a rising senior at East Rowan, walked Dylan Hastings and Spencer Wilson to begin the fifth before an excuse-me infield single by Trey Drewery brought home a run. One batter later, Blake Mosteller whacked a double to center that barely eluded the grasp of center fielder Will Sapp to tie the score at 3.
“It was that far away from being a great ESPN play,” said Cherryville coach Bobby Reynolds, who earned his 612th win. “Instead we tied it up and got the luck there.”
Rowan regained the lead briefly in the bottom of the fourth, capitalizing on Hastings’ two straight wild throws to first base from third that scored Andy Austin.
Taylor Garczynski drove home a pair in the second on a liner to center with the bases loaded.
Austin had a leadoff double to right that keyed the third, and he would be brought home on a Matt Mauldin sacrifice fly to right.
Austin’s double was the final Rowan hit of the night as Benefield retired 13 of the last 14 batters. Fleming walked to start the ninth in hope of a rally, but Avery Rogers and Garczynski were put down on strikes and Sapp popped up to shortstop to end the game.
“Once I settled down and it got a little cooler, I got stronger,” Benefield said. “We started hitting the ball and it gave me motivation. My adrenaline just started pumping.”
Rowan ended the year with a 25-10 mark as the Area III runner-up and outlasted the Area champion High Point.
“They got as much out of their abilities as they were capable of,” Gantt said. “When guys do that, it’s something you can be proud of.”
Cherryville 6, Rowan 4
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Sapp cf 5 0 1 0 Blake 2b 4 0 0 0
Morris ss 4 0 0 0 Rynds ss 5 0 0 0
Austin 1b 3 2 1 0 Drwry 1b 5 2 2 1
Thomas c 4 0 0 0 Mstler lf 5 0 1 2
Mldin lf 3 0 0 1 Martin c 4 1 1 0
Flbrt c 4 1 0 0 Sheely lf 4 0 1 0
Brown 2b 0 1 0 0 Weekly ph 1 0 0 0
Flmng 2b 2 0 0 0 Craft rf 4 1 2 0
Rgers 3b 4 0 1 0 Hstgs 3b 3 1 1 1
Grzski rf 4 0 1 2 Wlson cf 3 1 0 0
Totals 33 4 4 3 Totals 38 6 8 4
Cherryville 000 031 200 — 6
Rowan 020 101 000 — 4
E?— Morris, Fulbright, Fleming, Hastings 2, Blake. LOB — Cherryville 9, Rowan 6. 2B — Austin, Drewery, Hastings, Mosteller. SF — Mauldin. SB — Sapp, Martin.
IP H R ER BB K
Bnfield W, 10-3 9 4 4 2 2 13
Robbins L,4-2 62/3 7 6 4 4 6 Free 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Johnson 2 1 0 0 0 1
BK — Robbins.