ALBEMARLE — Rowan County’s sixth straight victory was a wild 9-8 win at Stanly County on Thursday afternoon that featured a comeback from an ugly 6-0 deficit.
Rowan (15-7) moved to 6-0 in divisional play because it got a hit from everyone in the lineup and because Ryan Jones (2-0), who took the mound in the third and lasted through the eighth, turned in a phenomenal relief effort.
Rowan did all of its scoring in a four-run fourth and a five-run eighth, and those two bat-around innings proved to be just enough.
When the ball soared off Stanly slugger Cody McKenzie’s bat in the bottom of the ninth, everyone at Montgomery Park was sure he’d just walloped a game-tying, two-run homer off young Rowan lefty Brandon White.
Except gravity finally brought the towering blast back to earth. It scraped the wall in left field, and Riley Myers was able to hold McKenzie to a very long single.
“I thought sure that one was gone,” Stanly coach Derek Barringer said, shaking his head. “It had to be a matter of inches.”
Myers, emerging as Rowan’s closer, relieved after McKenzie’s monster single, and he immediately got a groundball off dangerous Clay Fesperman’s bat that second baseman Chase Hathcock, shortstop Michael Caldwell and first baseman Chance Bowden turned into a massive double play.
Zach Almond, who already had launched a grand slam, singled in the run that cut Rowan’s lead to 9-8, but Myers calmly got a flyball to finally end a memorable game.
Rowan starter Clint Veal shut out the home team for two innings, but Almond crushed a 2-2 fastball out of the park with the bases loaded to key Stanly’s six-run third.
Jones got the last out of that inning — and he would get 15 more.
“We were down 6-0, but we were gonna keep fighting,” Jones said. “I knew if I could just put up zeroes, we weren’t out of it.”
Nathan Fulbright’s innocent-looking scratch single triggered Rowan’s four-run fourth. Fulbright came sliding home on a wild pitch to get Rowan on the board. Brian Bauk’s two-run single got Rowan back in the game. Hathcock’s two-out single made it 6-4.
“We played well to get a lead, but then we relaxed a little,” Barringer said. “And we stopped hitting.”
Two bunts and a walk put Jones in a bases-loaded, none-out minefield in the seventh, but Bowden stopped a smash and fired home for an out. Stanly (12-8, 4-2) settled for a single run on a sac fly, and Rowan trailed 7-4.
“Getting out of that with one was huge,” Jones said.
That escape became really huge when Rowan put together a string of tough at-bats in the eighth against a series of Stanly relievers.
Hunter Brooks singled to start it. Fulbright singled. Justin Evans’ single made it 7-5, and then Stanly had a disaster — a passed ball, plus an error when the ball was thrown to third and no one was covering the bag.
Now it was 7-6, and Myers banged Rowan’s fourth straight hit to tie the game. Ashton Fleming’s single kept it rolling, and Harrison Baucom, who was 0-for-4 stepped in.
“We’d talked about me just bunting the runners over,” Baucom said. “But I got a pitch I could drive.”
Baucom’s solid single to right put Rowan ahead 8-7. Bauk’s sac fly made it 9-7 — an insurance run that proved decisive in the ninth.
“It felt good to come through,” Baucom said. “It was a great team win. Jones threw strikes, and we played some good defense.”
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