By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Cherryville made things easy for Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team Saturday night.
Visiting Post 100 managed only three early-inning singles, committed seven errors and yielded two runs on wild pitches in RC’s 8-0 victory at Newman Park.
“We definitely can be this good all the time,” middle reliever Ryan Jones said after Rowan (6-3) used three pitchers to post its first shutout. “If we hit this good and pitch like this, we’re a tough team.”
It’s still early but they looked like world-beaters against winless Cherryville (0-3), a squad with only one full-team practice to date.
“They’re better than that,” said Rowan coach Jim Gantt. “They made some mistakes but they’ll get them corrected. You can bet on that.”
Rowan southpaw Connor Johnson got into early pitch-count trouble but persevered through five innings to earn the victory. Using a streamlined fastball, he allowed base hits in the first, second and third innings and issued six walks — due chiefly to the plate umpire’s floating-casino strike zone.
“That’s one of two things,” said Cherryville coach Bobby Reynolds. “Either (Johnson) was effectively wild or the other team can’t hit.”
Rowan catcher Nate Fullbright threw a verbal bouquet toward Johnson. “He hadn’t been on the mound for a while,” he said. “But once he settled down he was fine. He was able to locate in and out and get ground balls.”
Losing pitcher Dillon Harris struggled during a dehydrating first inning. He surrendered one-out hits to Ashton Fleming and Brian Bauk and a walk to Chance Bowden. Then he took a walk on the wild side, uncorking a pair of run-scoring wild pitches. Chase Hathcock, celebrating his 19th birthday, made it 3-0 when he drilled a two-out, RBI single to center field.
“We hit some balls hard tonight,” Fleming said after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “And I know they made some errors. But even if those balls don’t get through, it’s hard to lose when your pitchers throw a shutout.”
If there were any edges to smooth, Jones took care of it. He used a four-pitch assortment to baffle Cherryville’s lineup for three hitless innings. He fanned three, walked one and faced only nine batters.
“Ryan Jones throws a little two-seamer that’s got a little sink on it,” Gantt said. “He got a lot of ground balls and our guys have been good at fielding ground balls amd making plays. I think that was really the difference tonight.”
Rowan added single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, then scored twice in the bottom of the eighth when Fleming roped a run-scoring single to left and Bauk lofted a sacrifce fly. Lefty Justin Evans pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the verdict.
“You can’t make errors, can’t make outs, can’t get outpitched like we did and win many games,” Reynolds said.
Added Fullbright: “We hit the ball hard to cause some of those mistakes. They’re a decent team, but we were really on top of it tonight.”
NOTES: Rowan played error-free defense and turned two double plays. … RC collected 11 hits, including doubles by Fleming, Evans and Taylor Garczynski. Teammate Harrison Baucom was 2-for-5 and scored twice. … Fleming was Surry CC’s team MVP this spring and a second-team all-region pick. He leads Rowan is walks drawn.
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