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American Legion Baseball: Rowan wins sixth straight

KANNAPOLIS — Another game, anonther mercy-rule affair for Rowan County.
Rowan has rung up four 10-run-rule victories in its five divisional contests, although Monday’s 16-2 romp at Kannapolis didn’t qualify as business as usual because of coach Jim Gantt’s weird lineup.
Rowan’s standard outfield is Ryan Jones in left, Harrison Baucom in center, and Luke Setzer in right.
Except Jones was the starting pitcher for this one, Baucom was sitting out with an injury sustained in an outfield collision on Saturday, and Setzer was playing second base because normal second baseman Michael Caldwell had college orientation at Pitt Community College and hadn’t arrived by gametime.
Added together all those circumstances meant an unusual outfield of Heath Mitchem, who is used mostly as a relief pitcher, in left, starting pitcher Connor Johnson in right, and catcher Michael Pinkston, who was supposed to be getting a rest, in center field.
“We knew Caldwell was coming and he was in the lineup when we exchanged cards,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt explained. “But then the game is starting, and he’s still not here, so we had to put Pinkston in there.”
Pinkston did not remind anyne of Mike Trout, but he did OK.
Caldwell arrived during the first inning, but since he had been in the official starting lineup and had been replaced, his night was over. Legion uses American League rules, and there’s no reentry stuff like they have in high school.
Kannapolis (7-8, 1-3) scored the first two runs of the game, as Ryan Austin, C.J. White and Eric Hamilton banged out hits against Jones in the home first.
“We jumped on them a little bit, and things were looking pretty good,” Kannapolis coach Joe Hubbard said.
But Kannapolis had used nine — count ‘em, nine — pitchers in allowing 29 runs and losing a Sunday doubleheader to Southern Rowan and Concord, and things headed downhill after Rowan figured out Kannapolis breaking-ball specialist Josh Hall for a four-run second inning. Riley Myer’s solid two-run single snapped a 2-all tie and put Rowan ahead to stay.
Then Rowan broke it open with a nine-run fourth against Hall and reliever Jackson Raper. Raper fanned five and took one for the team. Hubbard’s bullpen was empty.
Rowan (15-4, 5-0) had 18 hits and has won its sixth straight game.
Chance Bowden’s three hits accounted for 10 bases and he drove in five runs. He hit his second homer in the fourth, tripled in the fifth and tripled again in the seventh for the first two-triple game of his life.
“I chased a curveball early in the count my second at-bat and wasn’t happy about it,” Bowden said. “I decided I needed to see more pitches and I refocused. The last three at-bats, I got my pitch.”
Myers’ three hits included two doubles. He drove in four.
“Riley is the guy that got us started with some good at-bats,” Gantt said.
Pinkston had three hits, while Mitchem, Hunter Shepherd and Dustin Ritchie produced two each. Pinch-hitters Cory Fries and Jake Pritchard piled on too, getting hits in their only at-bats.
Jones pitched four innings and helped himself with some good fielding. Mitchem (1-1) worked the fifth and got credit for the win. Harrison Bell threw the sixth, and Setzer — yes, Setzer — fired fastballs by some hitters to close it.
“It looked kind of strange seeing Pinkston out there in center field,” Ritchie said. “But it was another good game for us. It’s crazy how we’re hitting right now, but mostly this is kinda fun.”
••••
Kannapolis, believe it or not, faces two more games today. It will play Stanly in a seven-inning game at NWC at 10 a.m. — yes, 10 a.m. — and will play a nine-inning game at Stanly at 7 tonight. … Rowan should have Baucom and Caldwell back in the lineup tonight at Newman Park at 7 against a Concord team that was roughed up by Southern Rowan 10-4 on Monday. Like Kannapolis, Concord owns one divisional win.

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