Legion Baseball: Stanly 1, Rowan 0
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Officially, Russ Weiker saved Heath Blackmon’s 1-0 win against Rowan County on Wednesday at Newman Park, but Blackmon’s shinguards actually did most of the saving.
Blackmon, who recently graduated from South Stanly with a couple of 1A state championship rings, is both a pitcher and a catcher.
On the mound, Blackmon shut out Rowan for seven innings.
“No walks, I hit spots, and I kept the ball down,” he explained.
But Blackmon abruptly ran into trouble in the eighth when Avery Rogers smacked a hustle double and Will Sapp’s solid single put runners on the corners with none out.
Stanly coach Derek Barringer needed relief and turned to Weiker, a lefty who was the MVP of the 1A state championship series.
“Weiker’s gonna throw in the biggest situations,” Barringer explained. “He’s young, but he’s seasoned. He’s our ace.”
Blackmon left the mound but not the game. He sprinted to the dugout and emerged wearing a mask and pounding a catcher’s mitt. Zach Almond, who had been catching, went to right field to spell Weiker.
Weiker and Blackmon were tested immediately when speedy Brian Bauk bunted toward first base.
If Bauk had bunted just a bit harder or nearer the line everyone would’ve been safe, but Weiker got to the ball and flipped a throw home as Rogers slid in. Weiker’s toss was high and it appeared Rogers would get safely under the tag, but in the opinion of both the umpire — and Blackmon — Rogers never reached the dish.
“My left leg blocked him off,” said Blackmon, who, in effect, saved his own victory.
After Weiker retired Ashton Fleming and Nathan Fulbright, the inning was over.
Rowan had a brief glimmer of hope in the ninth when Alex Morgan walked with one out, but pinch-hitter Bryson Prugh was a little over-anxious and swung at a high pitch that would’ve been Weiker’s fifth straight ball. Instead Prugh was in an 0-1 hole. Prugh flied out, and when Weiker retired Chase Hathcock on a routine grounder, Stanly had swept two from Rowan on back-to-back nights.
“It was a good ballgame,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Weiker walked a guy in the ninth, but he didn’t panic. He’s used to it, and he knew what to do in some real tough situations.”
Bauk (1-2) pitched brilliantly for six innings but took the loss because two of Stanly’s three hits off him came back-to-back in the fourth.
When Clay Fesperman singled and Drew Cole doubled, Stanly (8-10, 11-13) owned the game’s lone run.
Rowan (11-15, 8-10) might have scored in the sixth but Fesperman, the second baseman, made a leaping catch on a ball hit by Fulbright.
Alex Bost was awesome out of the bullpen for Rowan, firing three hitless innings and facing only 10 batters.
“Bauk and Bost both pitched it really, really well,” Gantt said. “The only thing we did wrong is we played a little passively at times.”
Rogers accounted for half of Rowan’s six hits.
“I got one of those hits on a curveball,” he said. “The other two were on fastballs that he got up a little bit.”
Rowan came into the game hitting .243 as a team and exited at .241. It was shut out for the second time.
“Rowan is always a big game, especially when we come here,” Barringer said. “It’s one that we circle, so this is a huge win for us.”
It was a win Stanly heroes Blackmon and Weiker will remember for a while.
“I think we won it because we’ve played in so many big games,” Blackmon said. “We’d been there before.”