South Rowan falls to Concord in SPC baseball

Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2016

By David Shaw

LANDIS — You can’t control the hand you’re dealt, only the way you play it. And South Rowan misplayed its hand in Wednesday’s South Piedmont Conference Tournament opener.

The fourth-seeded Raiders looked nothing like the team that swept its last six regular-season games in a 6-3, first-round loss to visiting Concord.

“We didn’t do what we’ve been doing,” coach Thad Chrismon said after South (16-8) was relegated to the sidelines, awaiting next week’s 3A state playoffs. “We’d been playing clean defense, attacking the strike zone, having good at-bats and getting key hits. We didn’t do any of that.”

Concord (12-12) did and advanced to play at top-seeded West Rowan in tonight’s semifinals. The Spiders collected 10 hits, scored half of their runs with two outs and played error-free defense.

“I consider us one of the best teams in the conference,” winning coach Shane Brown said after Concord won its fourth straight game and sixth in its last seven. “We’ve got one of the best offenses, I know that. We try to get as many guys on base any way we can, then put the ball in play. That’s our thing.”

The visitors used that recipe to score three runs against South left-hander Blake Johnson in the top of the second inning. A walk and a couple of soft-serve singles loaded the bases before a one-out passed ball plated the game’s first run. Then leadoff batter Carter Mozingo grounded a run-scoring base hit up the middle before Matt Panner steered a two-out, RBI-single into left field.

“Blake went out there and we really didn’t play good defense behind him,” Chrismon said after South committed four errors. “They got hits with men on base. It really didn’t matter what they looked like. That’s about it.”

Johnson, a senior who recently signed with Belmont Abbey, kept the Raiders in the game with both his arm and bat. He retired Concord in order in the third inning and wiggled out of a jam in the fourth. Later that inning, Johnson drove a first-pitch fastball from winning pitcher Will Horsley over the fence in left-center, trimming South’s deficit to 3-1.

“We called that pitch from the dugout,” Brown said. “Fastball down and in. It was a great pitch, but Johnson got the head of the bat out on it. Hat’s off to him.”

Three South errors helped Concord score a pair of unearned runs in the top of the fifth. Johnson nearly escaped before yielding a two-out, two-run single by freshman Larken Lancaster — a line drive down the right-field line that landed fair by just two feet.

South responded with two runs in the last of the sixth. Bo Corriher drew a walk and pinch-hitter Dillon Norton delivered a two-out infield hit to the right side. Senior Peyton Penninger followed with an RBI-bloop single to center before Hayden Wilson’s infield hit drove in a run and made 5-3. But the Raiders left the bases loaded when senior Shaggy Wyatt popped out — and the Spiders scored an insurance run in the top of the seventh against Norton, who allowed John Vincent’s run-scoring single to left.

Horsley pitched 6 2/3 innings and won his sixth game. Johnson went six innings and allowed nine hits, three earned runs and struck out six. The Raiders, who split with Concord in SPC play and beat each of the three teams seeded ahead of them, will most likely play on the road when the state playoffs kick off.

“We’re going forward,” Chrismon said. “And we’ll be prepared. This was a good example of what we can’t do moving forward.”

Concord             030 020 1 — 6  10  0

South Rowan    000 102 0 — 3  8  4

WP — Will Horsley (6-1). LP — Blake Johnson (4-5). HR — Blake Johnson (2).