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Legion baseball: Rowan wins second game in Challenge

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

NEWBERRY, S.C. — Rowan County American Legion head coach Jim Gantt is confident Wayne Mize will be OK.

And if Mize is OK, Rowan  County will be OK.

There was a scary moment in the fourth inning of Saturday afternoon’s 7-2 win against Sumter when Mize was struck in the head by a pitch.

“It hit the bill of his helmet, just above his eye,” Gantt said. “He’s got a knot on his eyebrow, but there was no bleeding and there doesn’t seem to be any threat of a concussion. He was upset more than he was hurt. He really wanted to stay in the game, but we got him out of there so we could get some ice on it. He should be right back in the lineup.”

Before his early departure, Mize drove in his 35th run of the summer.

How critical is Mize to Rowan’s offense? Well, the guy who is second on the team in RBIs is the lead-off man Jordan Goodine.

Goodine has 15.

Rowan (14-5) rarely had smooth sailing during tightly packed games in the Challenge against three of South Carolina’s traditionally strong programs, but the hitters showed patience, the pitchers showed poise, and the fielders got the job done. Previously unbeaten Sumter (6-1) was aggressive on the bases. Rowan threw out four adventurous runners.

“Maybe we should’ve won all three games, but we didn’t do a great job of managing our pitching in that (7-6) loss to Florence,” Gantt said. “That was the first game of three in a short period of time, and we were concerned about conserving arms. But our guys did a  lot more good things than bad things. We ran the bases very well. We made some nice plays defensively, although we’ve still got to do better on routine ground balls in the infield.  We had a lot of guys do good things on the mound.”

Some of the pitchers were pitching under some pressure. Everyone wants to make the final 18-man roster, but Rowan still has some cuts to make before June 25. Those players are most likely to come from the pitching staff.

“We’d like to see the rule changed to 20, and 21 would be even better,” Gantt said.

Rowan experimented with a couple of new first basemen during the challenge. Mize and Bryson Wagner saw some time at first base. Slugging first baseman Chandler Lippard, who drove in 51 runs last summer, is still on the mend from a nagging hamstring injury. The timetable for his return is a week to two weeks.

“We won’t rush Lippard,” Gantt said. “We’ve got to be sure he’s ready. We’ve got some good options at first base, starting with Daniel Durham. When Daniel pitches, now we’ve got the option of using Mize or Wagner over there and Goodine can play first if needed. Mize started one of Friday’s games at first and looked pretty comfortable. He’s played there some in East Rowan’s fall league.”

Rowan got off to a good start on Saturday. Goodine ripped  a double and Cole Hales walked to get things started. Mize singled in the first run, and Daniel Durham singled in another to stake Rowan starting pitcher Corbin Durham to a 2-0 lead. A double-play grounder off the bat of cleanup hitter JT Fecteau kept Rowan from having a big inning.

Walks to CP Pyle and Goodine got the Rowan second off to a promising start. Rowan got a run on a wild pitch and Fecteau’s run-scoring single made it 4-0.

Steven Smith’s booming double over the head of the left fielder keyed Rowan’s three-run third inning that made it 7-0.

Corbin Durham cruised into the fourth with that cushion, but suddenly ran into trouble in the fourth when Drake Thames (double) and Jackson Hoshour (triple) smashed back-to-back extra-base hits to put Sumter Post 15 on the board. Parker Lippard relieved Corbin Durham and yielded a pair of singles. Michael Molenda relieved Lippard and got the second out of the inning, the biggest one of the day, on a pickoff at second base. He got the third out on a fly ball to Pyle in center.

Rowan’s bats went silent against Sumter reliever Tanner Epps. but Rowan’s bullpen did a nice job and didn’t allow a Sumter comeback. Molenda got Sumter out in the fifth. Scout Nichols pitched the sixth. Cameron Graham handled the seventh with the help of a double play started by shortstop Zeb Burns.

•••

NOTES: The only recent subtraction from Rowan’s team was pitcher Olen Stamper. One of the team’s older players, he was battling a shoulder issue. Stamper had a strong summer for Rowan in 2017 when he went 5-0. He was the winning pitcher in relief against Greensboro earlier this season and ended his Rowan Legion career with a 7-0 record. … Rowan starts divisional play tonight at Rich Park (Mando Field) against Mocksville. Deacon Wike will get the mound start for Rowan. Wagner is set to start on the bump Monday against Mooresville at Newman Park.

Rowan County    223   000   0    — 7   5    1

Sumter                000    200   0    — 2    9   5

W — Molenda (1-2). L — Josh Bryant.

HR — None.

Leading hitters — Rowan: Mize 1-for-2, RBI; Goodine 1-for-3, 2 runs; Smith 1-for-3, RBI; Fecteau 1-for-3, RBI; D.Durham 1-for-3, RBI.  Sumter: Dustin Kennedy 2-for-2, RBI; Hoshour 2-for-3, RBI.

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