NC3 baseball: Walk-off win for Rowan in league opener
By Mike London
SALISBURY — The little things.
Executing on a relay. Hustling to first base on a third strike that got past the catcher. Getting a good jump off first base.
Rowan County managed a meager four hits in the first game of Saturday’s NC3 baseball doubleheader at Newman Park — the one that counted in the league standings — but the little things added up to a 2-1 win against Randolph County.
It was the league debut for Rowan (9-1, 1-0). Randolph is 4-3 overall and 2-1 in league play.
The old rivals, who have battled frequently with a whole lot on the line in Area III, state and regional tournaments in American Legion baseball, staged a tense game worthy of a large crowd, but only 25 fans were allowed inside the park.
The player of the game for Rowan was Catawba-bound starting pitcher Ryan Street. He didn’t get the win, but he silenced a Randolph lineup filled with experienced sluggers for five innings.
Street got a major assist from his defense in the top of the first. Randolph’s Blake Marsh doubled with Harris Jackson running from first, but Jackson was nailed at the plate on a relay from center fielder CP Pyle to second baseman Bryson Wagner to catcher Charlie Klingler, who applied the tag.
Randolph starter Caleb Walker pitched out of a jam in the second and blanked Rowan for three innings.
Rowan broke through in the fourth. It was nearly a 1-2-3 inning for Walker, but Casey Gouge swung and missed at strike three in the dirt and reached first base safely when catcher Bryson Hogan had to chase the ball to the screen. The next batter was Pyle, and his screaming triple to center field gave Rowan a 1-0 lead.
Randolph got the equalizer in the fifth when Hogan singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a throwing error on Tatum Marsh’s bunt up the third-base line. That unearned run was the only blemish on Street’s pitching line.
Randolph reliever Cameron Fordham kept Rowan from scoring in the fifth and sixth.
Rowan reliever Dylan Driver pitched a 1-2-3 sixth before sidearmer Scout Nichols, who earned the win, made quick work of Randolph hitters in the top of the seventh to keep it 1-all. That set the stage for Rowan’s unusual winning rally.
Dawson Davis relieved Fordham to start the seventh, and his first pitch struck Wagner in the back, and Caden Hudson, a speedy outfielder, ran for him. No. 9 hitter Zeb Burns executed on a sacrifice bunt for the first out. Charlie Klingler’s bouncer was the second out, but it moved Hudson to third base.
The next two batters — Cole Hales and Wayne Mize — were then walked intentionally, setting up a force at every base. That left it up to Jordan Goodine, a Catawba football signee. He was Rowan’s hottest hitter not long ago, but he’d fallen into a mini-slump over the last few games.
Goodine jumped on the first pitch and rapped a bouncer up the middle. Second baseman Parker LaPlant got to the ball in good shape and fielded it cleanly, but Mize had a great jump and runs well. He beat LaPlant’s flip to shortstop Easton Morgan who was covering the second-base bag. Hudson crossed the plate with the deciding run, and Rowan had the walk-off victory.
Logan Rogers had a double for Rowan leading off the second, but Rowan couldn’t get him home.
LaPlant had a two-out double for Randolph in the fourth.
The teams played a second game that didn’t count in the league standings.
Randolph 000 010 0 — 1 5 1
Rowan 000 100 1 — 2 4 1
W — Nichols. L — Davis.
Leading hitters — Randolph: Jackson 2.
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