CONCORD – Kannapolis Post 115 didn’t have anything on the line, but it used the last game of the American Legion baseball regular season to head into the playoffs on a high note, beating first-place Concord Post 51, 5-3, Wednesday night at Northwest Cabarrus High School.
This game was technically the second half of a home-and-home doubleheader that began Sunday afternoon. Kannapolis won the first game, 10-1, at Mount Pleasant High School. Later that evening, with Concord holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning at Northwest Cabarrus, the second game was stopped because of heavy rain.
Area III officials ruled that Sunday’s nightcap would be restarted on Wednesday, rather than being picked up where it was interrupted.
Kannapolis made the best of its new opportunity Wednesday, scoring four runs in the third inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Chris Allen then shut down Concord in relief to help Post 115 cruise to victory.
“It was probably the best outing of (Allen’s) career,” Kannapolis coach Joe Hubbard said. “He threw strikes, and it’s really the reason we won the game.”
Starting pitcher Luke Nelson allowed three Concord runs in the third inning on a wild pitch, a Brett Laws sac fly and a Nolan DeVos RBI single. Trying to stop the bleeding, Allen came in with runners on first and second. He proceeded to mow down Concord’s Parker Ross with a strikeout to end the threat.
After that, he held the Concord hitters scoreless the rest of the game, scattering three hits in 4.1 innings with seven strikeouts. Allen credited his fastball command to his success.
“I was dialing it in and having fun, taking some off my fastball and not overthrowing it,” Allen said. “My curveball was pretty good, and I wasn’t trying to overthrow that, too.”
After that three-run third inning, the Kannapolis offense woke up and topped Concord with a four-run third inning.
With runners on first and third, Bryson Bebber stole second base, while Chase Orrock made it a double steal by taking home to push the score to 3-2. Zack Aigner then hit a double to score Bebber and tie the game 3-3.
Aigner took third after a wild pitch, and Jacob Gerton attempted a safety squeeze. An errant throw by Concord’s third baseman DeVos to first allowed Aigner to score and Gerton to go to second. Gerton then stole third base and scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3.
Neither team could muster any more runs after the eventful third inning.
Concord will have a first-round bye in the American Legion playoffs, which will give it time to rest up and fine-tune a couple things. Concord coach Jaymie Russ said his team’s defense and hitting will need to be more consistent for it to make a deep run, two things it struggled with in their loss to Kannapolis.
“We’ve got to be better defensively, and we have to become consistent at the plate,” Russ said. “Our pitching has been very good at this point, and there’s no reason it won’t continue, but our defense and hitting has to show up each game, and we’re capable of doing that, but sometimes I think we fall asleep or have slow hands.”
Offensively, Orrock led Kannapolis with a 2-2 performance with a double, two walks and two runs scored. Aigner went 1-3 with a double, RBI and a walk.
For Concord, Ray Beaver and Jose Vargas each had two hits and a run scored. Larken Lancaster also had two hits, and DeVos had an RBI single.
Concord 003 000 0 – 3 8 1
Kannapolis 104 000 x – 5 4 2
Concord Post 51 hits -- Ray Beaver 2, Jose Vargas 2, Larken Lancaster 2, Dylan Newsome, Nolan DeVos
Concord Post 51 RBIs -- Brett Laws, DeVos
Kannapolis Post 115 hits -- Chase Orrock 2, Bryson Bebber, Zack Aigner
Kannapolis Post 115 RBIs -- Bebber, Aigner, Jacob Gerton
WP: Chris Allen (4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 3 BB)
LP: Adam Wilkerson (3.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 7 K, 6 BB)