Legion Baseball: Rowan 12, Statesville 11: Rowan rallies from 8-0 deficit
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — If Rowan County’s Legion team could play every game against Statesville, it could start printing playoff tickets right now.
For the second time this season — and third since last year — Rowan overcame a large deficit late in the game and beat Post 65 Saturday night at Newman Park.
“The best thing you could say about this team is that they don’t give up,” coach Jim Gantt said after both Austin McNeill and Will Sapp scored on a ninth-inning wild pitch to give RC a pulsating 12-11 victory. “For a while there I thought we were gonna get 10-run ruled, and maybe no-hit. But they didn’t give up. They hung in there.”
Gantt could have used a tourniquet to stop the bleeding after Rowan (10-13, 7-8) needed four pitchers to get through the third inning. It was 8-0 Statesville when RC came to bat in the last of the fourth, still looking for its first hit against righthander Sam Laws.
“It doesn’t feel very good when you’re standing out in the field, eight runs down and it’s only the fourth inning,” said Chance Bowden. “The good thing was there was still a lot of game left at that point.”
Statesville (8-13, 7-9) scored in each of the first six innings and Rowan in each of the last six. Clint Veal was the winning pitcher, hurling the last seven innings and retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
“When you get down that much, you’ve just got to grind it out,” infielder Chase Hathcock said after knocking in three runs. “Veal kept us in the game. We kept telling him to get us a zero out there, get us back in the dugout, because we started to feel pretty good after a while.”
They started believing when Bowden belted reliever Travis Fetter’s second pitch over the left-field wall, trimming Rowan’s deficit to 11-8 in the last of the seventh. “I was just trying to get on base,” he said after going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a sac fly. “But he threw a fastball right down the middle — and I had the green light that whole at-bat.”
It got even closer when Ashton Fleming stretched a seventh-inning single into a double and scored on Hathcock’s groundout. Then in the eighth Nathan Fulbright doubled down the left-field line, took third on an infield hit and scored when Bowden lofted a fly ball to right.
That set the stage for Rowan’s ninth-inning magic. Losing pitcher Sean Grant had a runner on second base with two away when he hit Sapp with a pitch, then walked pinch-hitter Alex Morgan on five pitches to load the bases. Statesville coach Trey Ramsey summoned Colby Dishmond to get the final out, but his second delivery skipped to the backstop. McNeill, running for Bryson Prugh, scored the tying run rather easily. What surprised everyone was Sapp, who rounded third base kept going —sliding under a too-little-too-late toss from catcher Eythan Kramm.
As players kangarooed out of the Rowan dugout to mob Sapp, Ramsey was getting queasy. “It’s just a sick feeling,” he said. “It’s the same old thing. They did it to us again.”
Said Sapp: “I did it on my own. About halfway there I knew I was gonna make it. We need to do things like that every game.”
Veal said he had “no doubt,” Sapp would score and added: “If not him, I’m sure (on-deck batter) Jared (Mathis) would have gotten us a run. You could feel it. It’s all coming together, right in time for the playoffs.”