Legion baseball: Owen, Holshouser shut out Concord

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 4, 2018

By Mike London

MOUNT PLEASANT —  There’s no substitute for experience, and ace pitcher and part-time third baseman John Owen is one of the most experienced players Rowan County’s American Legion team has ever had.

Owen pitched for Rowan in the Southeast Regional in 2015, pitched into the eighth inning of the national championship game in Shelby in 2016, and was on the mound for Rowan’s opening game in the state tournament in 2017. Now he’s back for his fourth Legion summer after completing his freshman year at Pitt Community College.

Owen pitched five shutout innings against Concord on Sunday as Rowan County (7-0) opened divisional play with a 2-0 win at Mount Pleasant High. Owen struck out seven, walked three and allowed two hits. He recorded his second win of the summer.

Owen is 13-2 now in his Legion career, and that’s with zero luck. He’s probably set a program record for awesome no-decisions, including his effort in that national championship contest.

Owen was 15-3 in high school at East Rowan and 6-1 at Pitt this year. So his record for high school varsity, American Legion and junior college is a combined 34-6.

In other words, Owen, twice a Patrick Snider Memorial Award winner as the county’s best high school pitcher, is much scarier than his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame would suggest. Rowan County has a good chance any time he pitches, no matter who is providing the opposition.

Owen’s night actually got off to a challenging start. Alex Cirino, who recently finished a redshirt freshman year at Catawba, led off the bottom of the first for Concord (5-3, 0-1) by fouling off pitches for several minutes. Owen walked him with his 12th pitch, but it’s not like a guy who has stood on the bump in the Legion World Series is going to rattle. He got the next three guys out.

Rowan’s prolific offense was silent most of the night, but it managed to get Owen an odd run in the second inning.

Singles by Olen Stamper and Wayne Mize started the second. Concord pitcher Nolan DeVos got the lead runner out on Bryson Wagner’s sacrifice bunt attempt. After Luke Barringer rapped into a fielder’s choice, Rowan had Mize at third and Barringer at first with two men out. Barringer was picked off, but it worked out for Rowan. The big guy stayed in a rundown long enough for Mize to charge home. Mize crossed the plate an instant before Barringer was tagged out, and Rowan had a run.

Rowan made it 2-0 in the third. Matthew Mathis reached on an error and advanced on Trevor Atwood’s two-out hit. Then cleanup man Chandler Lippard lashed a big hit into left field for a 2-0 cushion.

That’s not much of a lead, but the way Owen was going it seemed pretty secure.

Concord put two men on in the third with two out, but Owen got slugging catcher Jeremiah Boyd to hit a flyball that stayed in the park. Boyd, who recently signed with Presbyterian, had the best swings against Owen. He also flew out deep in the first inning.

Concord catcher Josh Topper lined a double in the fourth, but that hit came with two men out, and Owen calmly retired the next guy.

Owen’s last inning — the fifth — was his strongest. Still nursing that 2-0 lead, he struck out the side.

After Rowan went down quietly in the top of the sixth, Maddux Holshouser relieved Owen. There was a lightning delay before Holshouser could throw his first pitch.

After about 50 minutes of down time, play resumed. Holshouser, 9-1 for Carson as a senior and pitching for Rowan County Legion for the first time this summer, picked up where Owen left off. He had a lively fastball and the lefty fanned five of the six hitters he faced to preserve the win for Owen. It was Holshouser’s second save of the summer.

Rowan will try to stay unbeaten tonight at home with another divisional game against Concord at 7 p.m. WSAT 1280 will broadcast the action. Perennial power Cherryville will be at Newman Park on Tuesday for a game scheduled for nine innings. Rowan beat Cherryville in last year’s state tournament.


Rowan County      011   000   0    — 2    6   0

Concord                 000  000  0    —  0   2    1

W — Owen (2-0). L — DeVos. S — Holshouser (2).

Leading hitters — Rowan: Mize 2-for-3; Lippard 1-for-3, RBI.