For 572 days, Atrium Health Ballpark was ready to open, but no games were played. The $ 52 million ballpark was completed in May in time to host games for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, the Minor League Baseball team in Kannapolis, but due to COVID-19, the minor league season was closed and the stadium not in use.
Last Tuesday, the game between App State and Charlotte was originally scheduled to play in Charlotte, but was moved to Kannapolis, where the Mountaineers eventually fell 15-5. The decision to change the game to a larger location created opportunities for more people to buy tickets to participate in the game. Fittingly, the game sold less than an hour after the tickets were sold.
“It was an honor to play the first game here. It is an extremely beautiful ball park, it felt almost normal today to have so many fans in the stands, “said head coach Kermit Smith.
Charlotte jumped out to an early lead in the second half, plated three and added nine more at the bottom of the third. The mountain climbers quickly found themselves down in 12-0 and failed to create any offense before the top of the fifth round. App State scored on RBI doubles from sophomore-designated hitter Peyton Idol and junior right fielder Phillip Cole. Charlotte left three races in the last four laps.
Mountaineers (10-9) came in the winners of the last 4 after defeating NC A&T and sweeping a three-game set with Arkansas State to open the Sun Belt game. Charlotte improved to 11-8 this season after defeating the Mountaineers for the first time since 2006.
Smith declared the match against Charlotte “Staff Day”, which means he rested his usual starters for the weekend series against Georgia Southern and shared the bullpen for most of the pitching.
Charlotte used a nine-run third inning to help the team to victory. App State junior second baseman Luke Drumheller reached base four times in a 1-for-2 night that included two trips and a hit from the court. Idol also led the mountain climbers with a pair on a two-run double in the fifth round. Junior right fielder Phillip Cole collected a hit in four record appearances and ran in two races.
The night started positively for the visiting mountain climbers as Idol and Drumheller both worked back-to-back trips to open the game, but Charlotte’s pitcher Hale Sims got the 49ers out of an early jam.
Charlotte jumped on App State novice pitcher Ben Peterson in the second half, scoring five races on three hits. Peterson worked a 1-2-3 first half, knocking out two, before Charlotte threatened at the bottom of the second. Charlotte left fielder Hunter Baker hit a two-run triple down the left field line just outside left fielder Kendall McGowan’s range. The 49ers capped the bottom of the second inning with a double, plating a new run to make it 3-0.
App State scored five races in the fifth round thanks to RBI doubles from Idol and Cole. McGowan recorded an RBI basis that scored Drumheller before junior utility player Andrew Terrell and catcher Hayden Cross pulled base-loaded trips.
App State never managed to recover offensively after the second and third innings when the 49ers combined 15 runs on 18 hits.
Mountaineers plated five runs and tightened five hits, while allowing three fouls.