KANNAPOLIS — Michael Pinkston was the 27th Rowan County batter to step to the plate on Saturday, and he finally delivered the team’s first hit.
But it’s not like Rowan struggled at Kannapolis. Thanks to walks and errors, Rowan already led 4-1 when Pinkston stroked his ice-breaking single in the fifth, and Rowan pulled away to a breezy 11-2 victory to stay unbeaten in divisional play.
“It can be hard to hit when they’re not throwing many strikes,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “When you do get a pitch, you’re not ready for it.”
Throwing strikes wasn’t an issue for Rowan (11-7, 3-0). Brian Bauk (3-0) was in charge for eight innings — five hits, two walks, no earned runs, eight strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the offense rallied to finish with decent numbers. Ashton Fleming and Riley Myers drove in three runs apiece. Chance Bowden knocked in two more for a team-high 17 RBIs. Taylor Garczynski was 0-for-3 but scored three runs.
Kannapolis (5-9, 0-4) made five errors and 12 Rowan hitters walked, so it could’ve been been 21-2.
“We didn’t do very much good tonight, but we did dodge a lot of bullets and we stayed in the game a long time,” Kannapolis coach Joe Hubbard said.
It was easier than Gantt anticipated when he was handed a Kannapolis lineup that included Trace Hagler as the starting pitcher.
“He’s been their most consistent pitcher, and he’s a good pitcher, much better than it looked like tonight,” Gantt said. “Trace throws hard and he’s got a real good curveball. He just couldn’t use his curveball much tonight because he kept getting into bad counts.”
It seemed like Hagler was behind every hitter 3-0.
“I think Trace was just too amped up,” Hubbard said. “He’s been good, but tonight he just didn’t have it.”
Two of Hagler’s eight walks set the table for Bowden’s sac fly that put Rowan ahead 1-0 in the first.
Hagler walked five men in the second inning, and Rowan picked up two runs on Fleming’s sac fly — right fielder Evan Holub made a great catch on it — and a run-scoring wild pitch.
When Hagler walked Myers in the third, his night was over, and reliever Phillip Faggart hit Fleming with a pitch with the bases full to give Rowan a 4-0 lead. But then Faggart put up zeroes in the fourth, fifth and sixth to make it a ballgame.
Bauk was in some trouble in the fifth after a single by Max Barrios and a two-out double by Holub, but he got out of it with Rowan still on top 4-1. It stayed 4-1 until the seventh when Myers’ two-run double down the left-field line proved a backbreaker.
“It was a hanging curveball, and he’d just thrown a fastball, so I was looking for a curve,” said Myers, who went 2-for-2 with three walks.
After Fleming singled in Myers, it was 7-1, and it was over the way Bauk was throwing. Then Rowan stung the ball in the eighth to add four more runs.
“That’s kinda how baseball works,” Bauk said. “We usually hit together, but we need someone to give us that spark. Tonight that spark was Riley’s double.”
Brandon White pitched a sharp ninth for Rowan.
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