EASLEY, S.C. — Kevin Turner knew that Jared Rowley was capable of a clutch pitching performance.
So the District I Big League manager was pretty happy to get one from the Dover pitcher at just the right time on Wednesday.
Rowley pitched a complete-game four-hitter, got some help from his defense, and Kent County’s District I blanked Texas, 5-0, in the Big League baseball World Series.
The victory keeps the East champions (2-0) in the winners’ bracket of the nine-team, double-elimination tournament. They won’t play again until Saturday when they face either California or Florida at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of that contest advances to the U.S. championship game.
Rowley threw the maximum 105 pitches, struck out five, walked two and hit two batters in the shutout. Turner said Rowley was in control from the second inning on.
“The big thing was he was able to control his curveball really well,” said Turner. “We were able to throw it behind in the count and also to strike some batters out.
“He’s the kind of kid you can ride out 105 pitches. When he’s at his best is when he gets into the fourth or fifth inning. He can really start to dominate at that point.”
Turner was also quick to credit District I’s defense, which he called “spectacular” in the victory. Kent County turned three double plays in the contest, including one in the sixth to end Texas’ last real threat.
“I’m telling you, this team sold out defensively today,” said Turner. “We had three different types of double plays. All were monumental at the time that they occurred. All had different players involved.”
Offensively, District I took advantage of four Texas errors as all five of its runs were unearned.
Kent County put itself in control early after scoring three runs in the second inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, centerfielder Dakota Graham (Dover) lined a two-run single that scored both Kendall Wicks and Sean Hanhauser.
Dover’s Tevin Thomas then followed with a single to score Milford’s Tommy Jordan.
District I added a run in the fourth when Graham’s sacrifice fly scored Jordan and a run in the seventh when Graham scored on an error. Graham, who is headed for Eastern Kentucky, went 2-for-2 with three RBI and a run scored.
Rowley and Aven Purnell also had hits in the contest.
Considering that Kent County has played two afternoon games in extreme humidity, Turner said his players have been pretty low-key so far about their success, Turner said it’s been nice to watch the players bond.
The team is staying at a dorm at Clemson University. With District I hosting the Eastern Regional last week, the players didn’t have that kind of experience.
“This is when the really special bond starts to form,” said Turner. “This is something that will be special and unique to them. Nobody else will have it.”
The team plans to relax a little bit today before preparing for Saturday’s big matchup. He expects it will take everything District I has to keep winning.
“It’s so hot here that they really don’t get that excited after the game,” Turner said with a laugh. “They’re exhausted. ... It’ll sink in a little bit but not too much.
“I think they’re starting to really believe they belong here. I told them, they earned the right for a great challenge. We’re not going to back down from it. Tomorrow (Thursday) we’ll relax and then Friday we’ll start preparing for maybe the most intense game they’ve ever played.”