Legion baseball: South Rowan 7, Kernersville 5
By Mike London
LANDIS — Coach Michael Lowman kicked the dirt in disgust after another impatient South Rowan at-bat in the fifth inning.
Lowman, competes hard in croquet, gin rummy or whatever, and he wouldn’t have slept a wink on Tuesday night if South had lost to the visiting Kernersville Junior Bulldogs in an exhibition game that didn’t mean a thing in anyone’s standings.
South managed to win 7-5, scoring the deciding runs in the fifth on a throwing error.
Lowman couldn’t quite bring himself to smile about the positive outcome.
“We shoulda scored a lot more,” he said. “But there were times we swung at pitches over our heads.”
The Bulldogs aren’t a Legion team — they’re a developmental and showcase program. They’re young, with almost all the players in the Class of 2013.
But the Dogs also are pretty good, drawing players from just about everywhere in the world except South Rowan and Carson.
Schools represented on the Bulldogs roster include Forsyth Country Day, Southwest Guilford, Northwest Guilford, Mount Tabor, Ledford, Glenn, Raleigh Athens Drive — Josh Hamilton’s old school — and even Virginia Episcopal.
It was a competitive, seven-inning game that South trailed until the bottom of the fourth.
“We won, and it’s really a big boost for us,” first baseman Kyle Bridges said. “We kinda went through a stretch where we lost a lot of very tough games, so a win of any kind is good for us.”
South is dealing with an unusual amount of adversity right now.
Preston Penninger, a veteran who was counted on to pitch quality relief innings and spot-start, is no longer with the team.
Cory Deason, a DH as well as the backup catcher and third baseman, injured a knee in the Rowan game.
Infielder Connor Bridges, Kyle’s younger brother, remains out after a collision concussion. He failed his first concussion test, but coaches are optimistic he’ll be available soon.
With a lot of negatives swirling around, Lowman sent Jordan Kennerly to the mound Tuesday. Kennerly pitched sparingly in the high school season for South, but he survived four innings and only walked one.
“It was Jordan’s first start in I don’t know when,” Lowman said. “He battled. He gave us a chance.”
Youngster Dillon Atwell was the winner in relief with two sharp innings, while veteran Dylan Walker earned a save with a 1-2-3 seventh.
“Atwell came in there and put out the fire for two innings,” Lowman said. “Nothing but strikes.”
Atwell has been the most pleasant surprise of the summer for Lowman and has been a godsend for a team that isn’t deep on the mound.
A jayvee freshman at Carson, he’s appeared out of the pen in six of South’s nine games and has fanned 12 in 81/3 innings. He’s allowed one earned run.
“I just try to throw strikes,” said Atwell, who complements a good fastball with a curve and changeup. Some of the guys in Legion are older, but I just try to be me. I don’t look at it it like anyone’s any different than I am.”
Trailing 1-0 early, South scored three times in the bottom of the first.
Maverick Miles singled home scorching-hot Gunnar Hogan, a run scored when Jacob Dietz bounced into a double play, and Miles trotted home on a wild pitch.
The young Bulldogs scored the next four runs for a 5-3 lead by bunching singles and taking advantage of South miscues.
Fourth-inning doubles by Walker, a college southpaw who’s getting a chance to swing the bat some, and Dylan Goodman pulled South within a run, and Kyle Bridges tied the game at 5-all with a clutch, two-out hit.
“I’ve been swinging the bat better,” said Bridges, who has four solid hits the last two nights. “I’ve just got to be patient because I’m seeing the ball so well right now I want to swing at everything.”
The game turned South’s way for good when Atwell took the mound and started putting up zeroes.
South broke the 5-5 tie in the fifth with a pair of unearned runs. Dietz reached when his one-out grounder wide of third was booted, and Parker Hubbard blistered a single to left to put two men on.
Walker grounded out to the right side to advance both runners a base. Hampton was up next. He rapped a slow chopper toward the second baseman, but he helped force an errant throw by hustling down the line. When the off-balance toss sailed past the first baseman, two runs scored.
“Put it in play and good things can happen,” Lowman said. “Patrick ran hard on it. If he doesn’t, they probably make that play.”
NOTES: Leadoff man Hogan went 2-for-3 with a walk and has reached base by hits or walks eight times in his last nine plate appearances. … South has a league game against Concord at Central Cabarrus High tonight, and probably will send Weston Smith to the mound. … South was 4-0 against Concord last season, winning 19-16 and 13-8 in the regular season and sweeping a playoff series with 9-1 and 10-2 romps. Smith was on the mound for seven innings in the 9-1 victory.