Legion playoffs: Statesville 13, Kannapolis 3
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — Corey Seager’s first professional hit out in Utah occurred at almost the same moment his former teammates’ season ended.
Kannapolis Post 115 fell 13-3 at home to Statesville on Friday via the 10-run rule, and the visitors claimed the first-round playoff series three games to two.
Lefty Sean Grant carved up Kannapolis’ depleted lineup, while Austin Hartness, who was Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle rolled into one in this series, belted a three-run homer.
No. 7 Statesville (12-16) put up 10, 14 and 13 runs in the three games it won.
“Par for the course,” said smiling Statesville coach Trey Ramsey. “This was fun. Nothing is as exciting as Legion playoff baseball.”
Joe Hubbard, making his return as a Legion head coach, never had all the horses he’d hoped for, but he led his team to a No. 2 seeding.
But the lineup softened considerably once Seager signed with the L.A. Dodgers and Travis Watkins reported to summer school at East Carolina. Starting second baseman Tyler Noyes also was missing at the end.
“Travis was one of our top hitters, a key pitcher and the starting catcher,” Hubbard said. “It’s not like you lose guys like that and get better. Still, I was awfully proud of this bunch. They never stopped fighting, and coaching them was always a blast.”
Grant, who signed with Catawba, dominated. He’d lost his Game 1 matchup with Kannapolis hurler Ryan Keziah 4-2 and was eager to redeem himself.
“I wanted to show that I could pitch on this field,” Grant said.
He did. He stayed ahead of the hitters, struck out seven, walked none and worked seven efficient innings.
“The pressure really dropped when we scored all those runs,” Grant said.
Keziah baffled Statesville in Game 1 with a late-diving changeup, but Statesville laid off it in the rematch. Statesville showed patience — like an 11-pitch at-bat by Grant — and got pitches in the zone to hammer.
“Even before the pairings were set, we knew Statesville was the team we least wanted to play,” Hubbard said. “They’re really hard to slow down, and when you make a few defensive mistakes like we did, they’re going to put big innings together.”
Statesville scored four unearned runs in the third. Jordan Gamble capped that inning with a two-run single.
Statesville settled the outcome with a seven-run fifth that included Eythan Kramm’s two-run double and Hartness’ three-run homer.
Grant had a 12-0 lead before he finally made a mistake. A slider drifted back across the plate, and Jarrin Hogue muscled a two-run homer in the sixth that gave Kannapolis (16-8) a little life.
Jesse Klepper singled in a run in that Kannapolis sixth to cut the gap to 12-3, but Grant’s own RBI single in the top of the seventh restored Statesville’s 10-run cushion.
Landon Hubbard and Will Miller had hits in the bottom of the seventh, but Grant whiffed the side. He got slugger Jordan Goodman on a fastball up and away to end the game and Post 115’s season.