Legion baseball: Kannapolis 5, Rowan 4
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — Corey Seager watched himself become the 18th pick of the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, threw on his Kannapolis American Legion uniform and drove to the ballpark.
There was still time for Seager to be a hero against Rowan County — only teammate Jordan Goodman beat him to it.
“We were going to bat Corey third in that ninth inning,” acting head coach Nick Daniels explained. “But Goodman rained on his parade.”
Goodman ripped Brian Bauk’s first pitch over the fence in left-center to give Kannapolis a 5-4 walkoff victory, a split of the season series and first place in the Southern Division of Area III.
“I knew with Corey not in the lineup that I had to step it up tonight,” Goodman said. “The pressure was all on their pitcher to try to get ahead of me. I was looking first-pitch fastball and I got one to hit.”
Joe Hubbard, who coached Seager and Goodman at Northwest Cabarrus High, is also the head coach of the Kannapolis Legion team, but he was watching from the pressbox on Monday.
This is a prep “dead period” due to exams, and high school head coaches can’t work with their athletes. That’s why Daniels, normally the pitching coach, was leading Kannapolis from the third-base coaching box, with Hubbard keeping a safe distance.
Still, the first person Seager found once he got to the ballpark in the bottom of the eighth was Hubbard. He put his coach in an emotional bear-hug that lasted a minute, and then headed red-eyed to the dugout to join his team.
Rowan (6-4, 5-2) used six mostly effective pitchers and played errorless defense, but it didn’t come through often enough against a pair of hurlers from Cox Mill — D.J. Smith, who lasted into the sixth, and Austin Mace, who was tough the rest of the way.
“We threw some balls away early, but Smith kept his composure and kept us in the game,” Daniels said. “Then Mace shut the door on them.”
Rowan had seven hits, including two doubles by Jared Mathis, but it rapped into a double play, had a runner caught stealing and left 10 men on base.
“Tough game,” Mathis said. “We just didn’t execute.”
Mathis doubled in the first and scored on an error. Then Ashton Fleming singled home Avery Rogers in the second.
When Chance Bowden yanked a double in the third to set up a run-scoring wild pitch, Rowan owned a 3-0 lead.
But little things let Kannapolis (6-1, 5-1) scratch back.
A passed ball keyed Kannapolis’ two-run third.
In the sixth, Rowan settled for the out at first base on a grounder to the box instead of making a play on a runner headed to third. One batter later, Will Miller’s single scored Evan Holub for a 3-3 tie.
“Mental mistakes cost us,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “We did some good things, but we had too many lapses tonight to beat a good team.”
Mathis doubled home Will Sapp for a 4-3 lead in the seventh, but Rowan left the bases full. Then Kannapolis tied it in the bottom half on back-to-back doubles by Goodman (4-for-4) and Jarrin Hogue.
After Rogers stopped Kannapolis in the eighth, Bauk entered, but his first pitch to Goodman left in a hurry.
“Goodman hit fastballs all night,” said Fulbright, Rowan’s catcher. “It was like he got exactly what he was looking for every time.”
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