Legion Baseball: Rowan 16, South Rowan 8
By Marny Hendrick
LANDIS — Rowan County exploded for 11 runs in the final three innings to claim the first battle of the season over cross-county Legion rival South Rowan, 16-8, Friday night.
The 36th meeting of the two baseball neighbors featured a number of ironic twists along the way but in the end, the game turned on a shutdown pitching performance by Avery Rogers and five RBI’s by first baseman Chance Bowden.
Rowan dominates the series with 28 wins over 16 years.
Less than 24 hours earlier, coaches Jim Gantt and Michael Lowman were side by side in the trenches with Catawba at the Division II World Series in Cary. On this night, however, they were opposing head coaches in a three- hour marathon that truly had a split personality.
Early on, the host South team cruised to a 5-2 lead, thanks to solid pitching by county Pitcher of the year Dillon Atwell and a two-run homer by Dylan Carpenter.
Rowan clawed back with three unearned runs in the fifth keyed by a Jared Mathis RBI triple. The score remained at 5-5 after six when Atwell left the game to rest his tender shoulder. Rowan proceeded to pound four South relievers for 11 runs and 11 hits over the final three innings to improve to 5-2 overall, 4-1 in their division, good for first place. South falls to 1-3, 1-5.
“Early on, we were just out in front of the ball and Atwell was pitching well,“ said Rowan center-fielder Will Sapp, who scored five runs in the game. “But things started to fall into place for us.”
Rowan jumped on relievers Aaron Bare and Austin Holbrook for four runs in the seventh then 3 more in the eighth keyed by Nathan Fulbright’s two-run single. A three run triple in the ninth by Bowden closed out the scoring and gave him 16 RBI’s for the season.
A big part of Rowan’s rebound is credited to strong middle relief by young hurler Austin McNeill and near-perfect shutdown pitching by Rogers to close the game.
Rogers, who gained valuable experience this season as a Guilford College closer, came on in the 7th with one out after South had cut the lead to 9-8 on Parker Hubbard’s two-run homer. He closed out the game by facing eight batters and striking out 6 of them.
“I just go out there to get outs but strikeouts are fine,” Rogers said. “This is a little easier than college.”
Gantt says he is still assessing how to best use the hard throwing righty but his role may be set for the season now.
“Avery is good and did what he is capable of, “ he said. “I really didn’t want to use him that early or that long.”
On the other side of the field Lowman praised his team for “battling and competeing and that is something to build on.”
NOTE: The two county rivals now turn around and battle again tonight at Newman Park.
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