By David Shaw
CONCORD — It was a victory that should have set off a few alarms, but didn’t.
The members of Southern Rowan’s American Legion baseball team accepted Friday’s 17-11 win at Concord like they’d just gone to the dentist for a cleaning.
“Nothing to worry about,” infielder Eric Tyler said. “We still played well enough to win.”
He’s right. Winning ugly is a still a beauty mark for SR, now 3-0. But on a night when it scored all those runs, collected 15 hits and received 21 free passes (15 walks and six hit batsmen), it failed to deliver a knockout punch.
“We could have put it away in eight (innings),” said head coach Ben Hampton. “We were right there. But we let the game get away from us.”
Southern Rowan built an 8-1 lead by the middle of the fifth inning before Concord (0-3) used a three-run homer by Blaine Hooks to pull within three. When the locals scored nine times in the top of the eighth inning to widen the gap to 17-5, they needed just three outs to earn a momentum-boosting mercy rule victory.
“We had an opportunity to close it out,” first-baseman Dillon Parker said after going 3-for-4 with four RBIs and reaching base six times. “We didn’t, but I have confidence these things are all going to work themselves out. It’s a new team and we’re just starting to come together. At the end of the night we’re still 3-0 and everybody’s in a good mood.”
Everybody except Aaron Bare and Austin Bracewell, the last two of SR’s five pitchers. Bare faced five batters in the Concord eighth and three scored, though only one run was earned. Bracewell entered with Southern ahead 17-6, two men away and runners at first and second.
But instead of sealing the deal, the right-handed sideslinger induced a pop fly to shallow right field that was misplayed for a run-scoring error. Back-to-back walks followed, forcing home another run, before Post 51’s Nick Tyson steered a two-run single into right field.
“Give them credit,” Tyler said after delivering a pair of doubles and making two highlight-reel plays at third base. “They battled. It’s a good thing we went out and squared up a few balls early in the game. We needed everything.”
Concord packaged three infield hits with an SR error to score its final run in the last of the ninth. Blackwell, who recorded the final four outs, yielded three runs, none of them earned.
“Twenty-one free passes — that’s way too many,” losing coach Tommy Small said after Southern left the bases loaded in the first, fifth and seventh innings and stranded 17 runners. “You can’t win Little League games doing that.”
Camouflaged in all the disorder was the melodic performance of Southern Rowan starting pitcher John Daugherty. The fast-working righthander — who went 8-1 for Carson this spring — tossed five trouble-free innings. He allowed two hits and a fourth-inning run when Concord’s Parker Henderson lofted a sacrifice fly.
“He threw first-pitch fastball strikes,” Small noted. “And we were up there looking, not swinging. Once he got ahead of us, he made us hit his pitch, not ours.”
Hampton called Daugherty’s effort “outstanding” and added: “John’s one you can count on to come to work every day.”
Dylan Goodman also had three singles and reached base six times for SR, which faces Mount Tabor tonight in Winston-Salem.
to Winston-Salem tonight at Mount Tabor High School.