Prep Baseball: South Rowan 11, A.L. Brown 4

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2012

By Mike London
LANDIS — It was an early March non-conference game, but South Rowan coach Thad Chrismon declared it a must-win.
“We had to win — I mean, we really had to,” Chrismon said. “We needed to play well to get the monkey off our backs. We had to get a win just to relax a little bit.”
South jumped out to a 7-0 lead and cruised to an 11-4 win against A.L. Brown on Friday afternoon.
The Raiders (1-2) took advantage of miscues by the visitors early and hit the ball hard late in a convincing victory that erased the bad taste of road losses to Mount Pleasant and Northwest Cabarrus.
“Yeah, they were 0-2, but look who they’d lost to,” A.L. Brown coach Empsy Thompson said. “Mount and Northwest — you get better by playing teams like that. Believe me, South’s gonna be OK.”
In the aftermath of a 9-3 loss to Northwest, Chrismon was undecided about who he’d start against the Wonders.
“Undecided” turned out to be Jordan Kennerly, who made his first varsity start a good one. He made a case to be South’s No. 3 starter behind Matt Miller and Dillon Parker, fanning seven in five innings, while allowing six hits, four walks and three runs.
“Not bad, but too many walks,” Kennerly said. “I made some good pitches, and the guys made better plays behind me. The biggest thing today was just getting a win. Kannapolis is no joke, but I thought we were pretty resilient coming off two losses.”
It helped that the Raiders got ahead in a hurry. The bottom of the first was a nightmare for the Wonders, who gift-wrapped two runs with wild pitches and errors.
Brown’s defensive struggles contributed to three more South runs in the third. That was the last inning on the mound for Brown starter Ryan Austin, Thompson’s opening-day catcher. Four of the five runs Austin allowed were unearned.
“South’s an athletic bunch, they were able to put a lot of pressure on us, and we made a bunch of errors in those first three innings,” Thompson said. “That was frustrating because we’d played such a clean defensive game the last time out (a 13-1 win against Salisbury).”
Brown had chances to make it a tighter, but it couldn’t take advantage of the back-to-back walks Kennerly issued in the second and third innings. On both occasions, Kennerly was able to make a big pitch and get a big out.
“Jordan worked ahead in the count and threw a lot of strikes,” Chrismon said. “I was really proud of him.”
Chrismon also was happy with a lineup that bounced back from a depressing day at Northwest with regard to hitting with runners in scoring position.
Parker Hubbard had three hits for the second straight day, Matt Miller had two hits and three RBIs, and No. 3 hitter Eric Tyler, who had maybe the worst day of his slugging life at Northwest, drilled singles in his last two at-bats.
“I worked in the cage on staying shorter and I hit the ball better,” Tyler said. “The big hit was what was lacking our first two games, but today we got some hits with men on base. That’s how you win.”
South also got a lift from lefty Austin Holbrook, who is known more for wrestling than baseball. He pitched the last two innings and limited the Wonders (1-1) to one run.
Caleb Falls, Brown’s second pitcher, went 2-for-2 to provide the brightest spot for the Wonders. Nate Sexton stayed hot with a two-run double that put the Wonders on the scoreboard in the fifth.
But it was South’s day.
“We only had three non-conference games before we start the NPC, and that’s really not a lot of time,” Tyler said. “We had the mindset today that we had to get this one to get on a roll.”