American Legion baseball: Rowan closes out regular season with victory

Published 12:01 am Thursday, July 7, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Better late than never, and Rowan County’s American Legion team eventually figured out a way to win another baseball game on Wednesday night.

Jake Blevins did a lot of the heavy work, holding Stanly County to two runs (one earned) in his five innings on the mound. He kept it close until Rowan generated some offense during a wild six-run bottom of the fifth that led to a 7-2 victory at Newman Park.

Blevins (6-1) was efficient again. The savvy right-hander struck out six, walked one and allowed five hits, as Rowan (28-7, 12-0) closed the regular season with a 13-game winning streak and a flawless record in the Southern Division of Area III.

Drew Burton pitched a breezy sixth and Matthew Connolly, with the assistance of center fielder Jackson Deal, pitched an exciting seventh, as Rowan finished off Stanly (10-10, 6-6).

Stanly had early leads of 1-0 and 2-1 behind pitcher Carson Morton. Morton and Cole Pinion had two hits each for Post 76.

Rowan got a run in the second when McCall Henderson doubled and scored on an error, but Morton was sharp his first two times through the Rowan lineup and took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of  the fifth.

Morton got two quick outs and appeared to be headed for another brisk inning, but a pitch in the dirt struck Rowan lead-off man Cole Johnson. Johnson stole second and scored the tying run after two wild pitches.

Deal walked and Aiden Schenk was hit by a pitch to extend the inning. Deal took off on a steal of third, helping to open up a big gap on the left side of the infield, and Blake Hill came through against relief pitcher Chance Hunt. Hill’s team-high 40th RBI of the season headed through the hole into left field, and Rowan County led for the first time at 3-2.

Rowan kept a foot on the gas and put the game away in the next few minutes.

Casey Gouge rifled a two-run double down the right-field line for a 5-2 cushion. After walks to Zach McNeely and Henderson, Luke Graham wasn’t interested in making the first and last outs in the inning. His two-run single made it 7-2. Cameron Burleyson walked to make it nine straight batters reaching base before Stanly finally got the third out.

Rowan had three hits, three walks, two HBPs and a sprinkling of wild pitches in the big inning.

Rowan has earned a bye for the best-of-three first round of the playoffs that begin Friday.

Rowan is scheduled to return to the field to open the second round at home on July 12.

Stanly  011 000 0  — 2   6  2

Rowan  010 060 x  — 7  6   1

W — Blevins (6-1). L — Morton.