Legion Baseball: Wilkes 9, South 6

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2012

By Mike London
LANDIS — Wilkes County arrived at South Rowan with just 11 players, but the shorthanded visitors still claimed a 9-6 victory on Thursday night.
“We started out with 17 kids, but a few are at the beach and we had arm injuries and one quit due to a playing-time issue,” winning coach Terry Johnson explained. “The guy who was supposed to be our first relief pitcher tonight missed the bus, and that dropped us down to just 11. But we scrapped and we got a big win. These kids like to play, and we’re fighting to make the playoffs.”
The fight for South (4-14, 2-11) to make the postseason— eight of the 10 teams in the Southern Division of Area III will qualify — is just about over. Even if South wins all of its five remaining league games, it could still fall short. The hole now is that steep.
South has qualified for the playoffs 12 straight years since a tough summer in 1999, but this season could end before June does. Matt Miller (shoulder) is the latest casualty.
“We’re battling, but we’re just really short on arms right now,” coach Michael Lowman said quietly.
Jordan Kennerly hadn’t pitched in a while, and he got the call to start a must-win struggle with Wilkes. He was rusty, walked five, allowed eight runs and was relieved in the fourth.
Ben Gragg and Aaron Bare turned in stellar bullpen efforts the rest of the way, but the damage was done.
South’s standout was left fielder Dylan Carpenter, who had the best night for a Carpenter since Karen won a grammy in 1971.
Besides producing three hits, Carpenter made an over-the-shoulder catch, a diving catch and a leaping catch. All three grabs were pretty special. Without him, Wilkes would have scored a dozen or so.
“They were hitting the ball hard, just really hitting the crap out of the ball,” said Carpenter, always a young man of few words. “I got lucky.”
Wilkes (5-10, 5-8) won for the second straight night, mostly because of a great relief effort by Alex Barr, who was celebrating his 18th birthday. He entered in the fourth inning and shut down South through the seventh.
“It’s like both teams really hit the ball well early, but then they both went stagnant,” Johnson said.
Jordan Carlton also did his share for Wilkes. He whacked two doubles and earned a save.
South put up a fight after spotting Wilkes six runs, but the killer stat for the home team was 15 men left on base.
South’s four-run third was triggered by Carpenter’s one-out double. A hustle hit by Parker Hubbard put South on the board. Caleb Jackson drew a run-scoring walk, Gragg got a run in with a groundout, and Connor Bridges singled home a run.
South got its other two runs in the fourth. Hubbard singled in Tyler Fuller before Kyle Bridges’ single plated Hubbard. Barr relieved to get the third out in the fourth, however, and that’s where the fun stopped for South.
Down 9-6 in the ninth and down to its last out, South managed to fill the bases on two hit batsmen and a walk, but Carlton struck out Hubbard looking at a fastball on the inside corner to end it.
“They threw three lefties at us, all with good velocity,” Lowman said. “Their pitchers were wildly effective. We got into a lot of 3-ball counts, but then they’d make a good pitch.”