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Legion baseball: Rowan rolls to 10-run rule win

Locals win home opener over Kannapolis

Rowan’s Wayne Mize (4) is greeted at the plate after his home run by teammate Bo Rusher (1), during Friday night’s American Legion baseball game at Newman Park. Photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — North Rowan had the county’s only losing team this baseball season, but two Cavaliers keyed Rowan County’s 14-4 American Legion victory against Kannapolis on Friday night in the home opener at Newman Park.

North Rowan junior Jonathan Spry was the winning pitcher. Jordan Goodine, a North junior best known as a ferocious football linebacker before this Legion season began, delivered the game-changing hit.

Also having major offensive nights for Rowan were sizzling East Rowan slugger Wayne Mize, who launched the first of what should be many homers this summer, and West Rowan’s sophomore catcher JT Fecteau, who drove in runs in each of his last three at-bats.

Rowan had 16 hits, seven for extra bases.

“That’s an extremely scary team they have,” Kannapolis coach Joe Hubbard said. “I don’t know how many guys they’ll get from Carson to add to it, but that’s already a very tough lineup — from top to bottom.”

West Rowan head coach Seth Graham, filling in again as Rowan’s head coach with Jim Gantt with the Catawba Indians in the Southeast Super Regional in South Carolina, was confident Spry would do OK.

“We faced Spry this season when we played North Rowan at West and guys kept coming back to the dugout talking about how much his ball moves,” Graham said. “He came close to beating us. We finally got his pitch count up in the fifth inning and they made some errors behind him and we were able to come back, but I saw enough to know he could pitch. My only worry tonight was how he’d react to pitching in front of a big crowd. I had that same concern about our other guys who were playing for the first time at Newman Park.”

Spry got off to a good start, with three groundouts in the top of the first.

The best pitch he threw resulted in a bouncer with two on and one out in the second inning. Shortstop Steven Smith, second baseman Cameron Graham and first baseman Chandler Lippard turned that grounder into an inning-ending double play, although Rowan lost Lippard for the rest of the night when he made the stretch to finish the twin killing. Lippard suffered a hamstring injury, although there’s hope it’s not going to sideline him for  a prolonged period.

“I wasn’t all that nervous,” Spry said. “I knew we’d hit and I knew the defense behind me would be good. I just had to throw strikes, especially after we got the big lead.”

Rowan (4-1) took a 1-0 lead on Mize’s RBI double down the left-field line in the bottom of the first, but Rowan left the bases loaded in the second.

Then Kannapolis (1-2) scored twice to go in front in the top of the third.

Kannapolis, a 3-1 loser to Rowan on Thursday, had the momentum at that point, but the bottom of the third would prove decisive. Rowan put together a monster inning.

Mize doubled high off the left-field wall to start the third against Kannapolis starter Ryan O’Kelly. Bo Rusher lined out hard to right field, but Olen Stamper’s single to left put runners at the corners.  Fecteau’s sacrifice fly made it 2-all. Steven Smith’s single and a walk to Cameron Graham filled the bases. Everyone was safe on Daniel Sell’s tapper in front of the plate, and Rowan led 3-2.  Goodine was next.

“I’ve been adjusting to being a lead-off hitter with the Legion team because I’ve usually been in the middle of a lineup,” Goodine said. “I’ve been learning a lot. The coaches have been working with me on staying back on the ball and  thinking back side more. This was a game where my teammates put me in good position, and it was just a lot of fun for me.”

Goodine, a right-handed hitter, got down in the count 1-and-2 on the game’s biggest at-bat, but all that work on staying back was about to pay off. He turned a 1-and-2 breaking ball away — a decent pitch — into a laser headed toward right-field. Goodine’s double cleared the bases, and Rowan led 6-2. That was the turning point.

“We had a couple of chances to make a play and get out of that inning, but we didn’t,” Hubbard said. “And then the game just got away from us. You can’t give those guys any extra swings.”

Hubbard turned to his bullpen after Goodine’s blow, but Daniel Durham had come into the game with Lippard hurting, and the lefty sent a triple whistling into the right-field corner. Then Mize clobbered a pitch way out of Newman Park, and it was 9-2.

Mize  was 1-for-8 in Rowan’s first two games, but he has mashed eight hits in the last three.

“I’ve got teammates who are pushing me to be good, and I’m just locked in at the plate right now,” Mize said. “We’re all working as hard as we can. We know this can be a really good team.”

Kannapolis got Spry out of the game in the fifth with a couple of runs, but Rowan had things completely under control by that point. Fecteau whacked run-scoring doubles in the fourth and fifth, and Rowan ended the game via the 10-run rule in the fifth on a hit by Graham.

“Spry did a nice job of holding a good team down until we could get the bats going,” Coach Graham said. “He’s not easy to rattle, he’s got a lot of movement, and we gave him some support offensively and defensively.”

•••

NOTES: Kannapolis is potentially a good team, with players from five public schools — A.L. Brown, Northwest Cabarrus, Robinson, Cox Mill and South Rowan — on the roster. “We’ve got some talent, but we’ve only got three returners from last year, so it’s going to take us time to put things together,” Hubbard said.  “I think we’ll be a much different team when we get to the games that count in the league.” … Kannapolis plays at Concord tonight. … Rowan is back on the road today and will play games against High Point (4 p.m.) and Mocksville (7 p.m.) at Mocksville’s Rich Park. … Carson plays at home tonight against Marvin Ridge in a game to decide the 3A West regional championship.  …Carson hurlers Cole Hales and Deacon Wike plan to play for Rowan Legion this summer for the first time. Carson outfielder Luke Barringer, catcher Garrett Alewine and center fielder CP Pyle were important members of the Legion squad last season and are expected to return as well.

Kannapolis            002  02   — 4     7   0

Rowan County     108   23    — 14  16  1

W — Spry (1-0). L — Ryan O’Kelly (0-1).

HR — Rowan: Mize (1).

Leading hitters — Kannapolis: CJ Hassell 2-for-3, 2 RBIs. Rowan: Sell 3-for-3, 2 RBIs; Fecteau 2-for-2, 3 RBIs; Mize 3-for-4, 3 RBIs; Stamper 2-for-3; Goodine 2-for-4, 3 RBIs.

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