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American Legion Baseball: Rowan gets 16 hits, still loses to Randolph

SALISBURY — Sixteen hits should be enough to win an American Legion baseball game, but Rowan County rapped into three double plays, left 14 men on base and fell to visiting Randolph County, 12-10, at Newman Park on a chilly Monday.
There were seven errors and countless walks in a marathon matchup that pushed past 3 hours, 30 minutes. Rowan employed six pitchers and sent 51 men to the plate — to no avail.
It wasn’t decided until Rowan slugger Juan Garcia lined to shortstop for a game-ending play with the bases loaded.
“That’s the best shot Juan has hit so far, but unfortunately right at ’em,” said Brandon Walton, whose bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch pulled Rowan within two runs in the ninth.
Rowan held a 9-8 lead entering the top of the ninth, but a leadoff double by Tristan Marsh started a four-run Randolph rally.
It was frustrating for Rowan (1-1) early. Rowan hitters left six on base in the first three innings.
“We had all kinds of chances, but we just didn’t drive them in,” Rowan County coach Jim Gantt said. “We didn’t have good at-bats with a runner at third base and less than two out.”
A defensive mishap in the top of the first inning put Rowan in a hole. Rowan first baseman Hunter Shepherd dropped a liner with a runner going that would’ve been an easy double play, and then flipped the ball over starting pitcher John Owen’s head as Owen raced to cover first.
“That was all on me,” Shepherd said. “It was just one of those things, but that play led to three unearned runs.”
That play hurt, but it didn’t cost Rowan the game. Shepherd saw to that. He delivered the first key hit for Rowan, a two-out, two-run double in the fourth that cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-3 and changed momentum.
“We battled our way back into it,” Shepherd said.
Rowan got a lift from lefty Brandon White, the most effective of its six pitchers. White put up zeroes in the fourth, fifth and sixth, as Rowan caught up, and then took the lead.
Homeschooler Dalton Lankford started the Rowan sixth with one of his four hits.
“I was just trying to stay short with my swing and not try to do too much,” Lankford said. “We just kept battling.”
Next a walk to Shepherd and Trevor Atwood’s sac bunt put two men in scoring position. Walton drove them in with a ringing double, and Rowan owned its first lead at 6-5. Tanner File’s two-out hit put Rowan ahead 7-5 before the sixth was over and Rowan had scored six unanswered runs.
But the top of the seventh changed the game. Randolph accepted five walks and scored three times to inch ahead, 8-7.
Three walks set the table for Rowan to do some damage in the bottom half of the inning. Shepherd got the tying run home with a fielder’s choice bouncer, and Atwood pushed Rowan back in front, 9-8 with a clutch hit. Walton absolutely hammered a pitch to the right side for an inning-ending double play.
Rowan reliever Colby Myrick held that precarious, one-run lead in the eighth with the help of Lankford, who scooped a low throw at shortstop, and fired on to first for an inning-ending DP.
West Rowan youngster Olen Stamper came in to try to close it out in the ninth, but he was greeted by Marsh’s loud double to the wall. After a sacrifice, Brady Wright produced the single that tied the game at 9-all.
Randolph scored the go-ahead run when a potential double-play ball skipped past Rowan second baseman Tanner File and went up the middle. Clay Richardson’s double made it 11-9, and Kerby Lambert’s sac fly staked Randolph to a 12-9 lead.
“That’s a good team,” Walton said. “They can hit.”
It looked over, but there was more excitement.
Richardson was pitching for Randolph, and he ran into trouble trying to get the final three outs. He hit Seth Cauble, allowed a bouncing single through the left side by Lankford, and then plunked Atwood on the helmet with a one-out pitch to fill the bases.
With the potential winning run at first, Marsh relieved Richardson. Walton fouled off several tough 3-2 pitches from Marsh before drawing a run-scoring walk for his third RBI.
Garcia was next, and it wasn’t his night. He’d already lined out to center, and his smoker to short resulted in a bang-bang, game-ending twin killing.
“We hit the ball and we never gave up,” Gantt said. “But it was disappointing that we didn’t do a lot of little things correctly. If we take care of those things, we win this ballgame, but Randolph County can probably say the same thing.”
Rowan’s 2015 season ended with a loss to Randolph County in the Southeast Regional. And the first loss of a new season came against a Randolph team that is 4-0 and will get stronger when it adds Randleman’s players. Randleman had a long playoff run in 2A ended by Parkwood on Monday.
•••
NOTES: Members of the 2015 Rowan team received state-championship rings prior to the game … Bob Lowman, a key member of the Rowan Legion family for many years before his death in late March, was remembered with a pregame moment of silence.

Randolph County 302 000 304 — 12 12 3
Rowan County 010 213 201 — 10 16 4
W — Clay Richardson. S — Tristan Marsh. L — Olen Stamper (0-1).
Leading hitters — Randolph: Marsh 2-for-3, 3 runs, 2 RBIs. Rowan: Dalton Lankford 4-for-5, 2 runs, Hunter Shepherd 3 RBIs, Brandon Walton 3 RBIs, Tanner File 2-for-2.

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