SALISBURY — Kernersville’s 8-3 win against Rowan County on Wednesday ended Rowan’s season, but there weren’t many tears at Newman Park.
Kernersville (29-6) not only swept the best-of-five series, it was impressive enough that fans left believing Post 36 has a good shot at capturing a state championship.
Kernersville banged out 16 more hits, including four by Harry Hollis and three by Jamison Nagle.
Chase Hathcock and Hunter Brooks had two hits each for Rowan.
“We competed as hard as we could, so no one should leave here feeling bad about anything,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said quietly. “The better team won this series, and I don’t think there’s any ifs, ands and buts about that. Sometimes you just run into guys who are better. Kernersville’s got a middle infield college teams would like to have. That’s just a really good team.”
Rowan (22-10) scored three runs early and led until the sixth, but it was a walking-a-tightrope sort of lead. Rowan’s lefty starter Justin Evans allowed back-to-back-to-back hits with two outs in the fourth, but he survived Gantt’s first mound visit and escaped with a 3-1 lead.
In the fifth, Evans (3-1) weathered another barrage of three consecutive two-out hits and Gantt’s second mound visit and managed to get to the dugout with a 3-2 lead.
“I was trying not to walk guys and trying to stay ahead in the count because they’ll just jump all over fastballs,” Evans said. “I just ran out of gas in the sixth.”
Hollis drilled a double to begin the decisive sixth. Evans wild-pitched him to third, and Jacob Williams tied the game at 3-all with a sacrifice fly.
That prompted Gantt’s third mound visit to Evans.
“I was sort of hoping Justin could talk me out of taking him out again,” Gantt said. “But he was worn out.”
Southpaw Brandon White relieved and got the second out on a flyball. A great pitch by White got a weakly hit ball off the bat of Robbie Harrison that bounced slowly toward third baseman Hathcock.
“If I charge, it’s going to get me in between hops, and when I stayed back, it had too much topspin on it to make a clean play,” Hathcock said.
His throw to first was in the dirt, and the inning continued. Evan Rogers then hammered a two-run double to the left-center gap that put Kernersville ahead to stay.
Rowan scored twice in the first. Chance Bowden’s RBI groundout and Hathcock’s two-out single plated runs.
In the second, Nathan Fulbright sliced a double and scored on a throwing error to give Rowan a 3-0 lead.
But Kernersville lefty Drew Wilson (2-2) took charge after that with five shutout innings.
“We showed a lot of heart and guts to come back and beat a good team that played hard,” Kernersville coach Chad Loflin said. “The key was Drew settling in and mixing his pitches. He really pitched — and that’s what you have to do at this level.”
Wilson’s best pitch was his last one. He got Brian Bauk to ground out on a 3-2 pitch with two men on in the seventh.
Brooks’ deep flyball to left with a man on in the eighth gave fans brief hope, but Williams ran it down. Then Kernersville scored three in the ninth to put it away.
“All three games were close, but that’s just a very good team,” Hathcock said. “They’ve got a lot of arms and they just crush the ball.”
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