American Legion baseball: Rowan stays alive in state tournament

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2023

By Mike London

LILLINGTON — Rowan County and Cherryville have combined for 16 American Legion baseball state championships and thousands of victories, so they’ve had their classic confrontations.

This wasn’t one of them.

Cherryville (22-14) did more to lose it than Rowan (38-6) did to win it. Cherryville generously donated 11 walks, two hits batsmen and four errors to Rowan’s cause on Wednesday afternoon.

Rowan, which also made four errors, won’t do any complaining about an 11-4 victory on the boiling turf at Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium. Ugly wins beat the heck out of pretty losses, and Rowan was able to stay alive in the double-elimination state tournament by beating its old adversary.

Rowan was able to maintain a streak of winning at least one game in all 14 state tournaments in which it has participated since American Legion adopted the single-site state tournament format in 2000.

Rowan only had six hits, with Cole Johnson producing half of them.

JT Taylor, who walked three times, Luke Graham, Morgan Padgett, Elijah Palmer and Johnson scored two runs each. Padgett and Aiden Schenck were credited with two RBIs each.

Belmont Abbey recruit Ashton Pope hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to give Cherryville a 2-1 lead, but Rowan starting pitcher Padgett (4-2) settled down after that. He threw the ball over the plate, striking out three and walking one in four innings of work. Cherryville had seven hits off him, but he put zeroes on the scoreboard in the second, third and fourth innings as Rowan took control of the game,

Rowan scored five runs in the top of the second to go ahead 6-2. One of Johnson’s hits led off that inning, but the key to the outburst was a successful sacrifice bunt by Matthew Connolly and three Cherryville errors.

Rowan actually was sailing toward 10-run rule territory in the fourth when five straight batters reached via walks or HBPs to make it 8-2 and load the bases with no outs. But Cherryville turned a 1-2-3 double play to stay in the game, and then Post 100 fought back to an 8-4 deficit with a two-run fifth against Rowan reliever Mikey Beasley.

Rowan was able to score three times in the sixth to rebuild its cushion.

Joe Burleyson pitched the bottom of the sixth with the aid of Rowan’s second twin killing of the day, while Drew Burton handled a 1-2-3 seventh.

Rowan is scheduled to play again on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.