Legion Baseball: Rowan 11, Lexington 7
By Mike London
LEXINGTON — “Batting third and playing first base for Rowan County is Chance Bowden” droned the public address announcer at Lexington’s Holt-Moffitt Field as lineups were introduced, and the majority of Rowan fans wondered who in the world Bowden was.
Now they know. Bowden, a Salisbury High soph, batted six times in Friday’s American Legion opener and hit the ball on the nose six times. He had three hits and three RBIs as Rowan ralled to win 11-7.
Wherever he was, Salisbury Hornets coach Scott Maddox was smiling. The other Hornet debuting was left fielder Brian Bauk, and while most everyone knows about the talented Bauk, it was still eye-opening to watch him go 4-for-6, score three runs and make special plays in left field.
Salisbury High has had pitchers make impacts for Rowan Legion in recent years, but outfielder Russell Michalec is the only Hornet who’s been a regular position player in the last half-dozen years.
That’s about to change.
“It felt amazing to be out there tonight and wearing that Rowan uniform,” Bowden said. “It’s something I always wanted to do and always dreamed about, and it just felt good to get the job done.”
Rowan got it done in a game that was anything but pretty. There were 14 walks, 10 errors and 25 runners left on base.
With head coach Jim Gantt and assistant Seth Graham with Catawba in the Division II World Series, pitching coach Sandy Moore and Carson’s Chris Cauble ran the show on opening night.
“We swung the bats well,” Cauble said. “We came out really focused, then had a lull where we tried to pull everything. Then at the end, we started hitting it hard again.”
Lefty Justin Evans (West) started and made it to the fifth. Freshman Heath Mitchem, a Carson lefty, kept Rowan in the game, and Avery Rogers, back from his freshman year at Guilford, threw the heck out of it in the seventh, eighth and ninth.
“It was a really good win for us,” Rogers said. “Especially coming back to win, that’ll give all our young guys some confidence.”
Evans was fine early but ran out of gas in the fifth. Mitchem was pretty terrific for a guy who had never pitched in a varsity game.
“The pitching didn’t exactly go as planned because Avery pitched a lot longer than we wanted,” Moore said. “We just got into a situation where we couldn’t give up any more runs and had to go to him.”
Will Sapp, returning to the team from Wingate, also had a super night for Rowan, walloping two doubles, drawing two walks, making a running catch in center and throwing out a runner at the plate.
Bauk and Bowden drove in runs in the first for a quick 2-0 Rowan lead.
Lexington (0-2) went ahead 4-3 on Tyler Redd’s two-run single that chased Evans in the fifth, and when Rowan struggled defensively in the sixth, it slid behind 7-3.
“Our starting pitcher (Dillon Hampton) did a great job after the first inning,” Lexington coach Chris Sotriffer said. “He was spotting his fastball better and getting more movement. Than our second pitcher (Andrew Mayton) comes in and throws very well, but we didn’t make any plays for him.”
The game turned in the seventh when Rowan scored three runs without a hit to climb back to 7-6. That inning included a missed flyball and a dropped throw at first.
Bowden’s RBI groundout scored Sapp for a 7-7 tie in the eighth, and Bauk crossed the plate on a passed ball to put Rowan on top to stay.
Three runs in the ninth put it away for Rowan. Bauk and Bowden finished off great nights with one more hit.
“It was my first game for Rowan Legion, so I was actually a little bit nervous,” Bauk said. “I relaxed after I got a couple of hits.”