Rowan set for rematch with Wayne
Rowan County will open the American Legion state tournament against the team that ousted Jim Gantt’s squad from the 2007 event.
Rowan (32-14) and Wayne County (24-6) will square off today at 12:30 p.m. in the second contest scheduled for Sims Legion Park in Gastonia.
Rowan beat Morehead City in the first round last year but wasted a 6-1 lead in an 8-7 loss to eventual champion Cherryville. Rowan returned to Garner High School the next morning for an elimination game against Wayne, which led 17-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning. Rowan lost 19-1 in seven innings.
Tanner Brown, the probable Game 1 starter for Rowan, was one of six Rowan pitchers who worked in that lopsided loss to Wayne. Justin Roland, Trey Holmes, Micah Jarrett, D.C. Cranford, Matt Hall and Justin Mock also played in that game.
Roland is second in program history behind only Cal Hayes Jr. with career totals of 203 runs scored and 218 hits. He has a program-record 52 doubles.
Roland (six saves) is the only Rowan pitcher with an ERA below 4.40 this season, but Brown leads the staff with a 7-2 record. He has a 4.44 ERA, and his total of 73 innings pitched leads the team. Hall ranks second with 57.
Wayne lost four key pitchers from last year’s team, including Grant Sasser. Sasser, who made two appearances as an N.C. State freshman, held Rowan to one hit and one unearned run in six innings last year.
Starting pitchers Michael Douglas and Taylor Allen have 6-2 records this season. Douglas, the team’s ace, has a 3.30 ERA even though he has allowed 69 hits in 60 innings.
Wayne has plenty of experienced hitters.
Catcher Zach Wright, middle infielder Walker Gourley and third baseman John Wooten went a combined 8-for-14 with nine RBIs and seven runs scored against Rowan last season.
Wright, who went 4-for-5 with five RBIs in that game, has signed with East Carolina. He has eight homers, 24 RBIs and a .318 average this summer for Wayne.
Wooten has committed to ECU. He leads Wayne with 12 homers, 40 RBIs, 50 hits and 43 runs scored.
Gourley, who hit a two-run homer to begin the 2007 rout against Rowan, has also committed to ECU. He has 28 RBIs, and he has stolen 23 bases in 24 attempts. Wayne has 93 steals in 110 tries as a team.A three-game losing streak dropped Wayne to 6-3 at one point, but it has won 18 of its last 21. Clayton took Game 2 of the best-of-three Area I championship series by a 20-2 count, and Wayne bounced back to win 7-6 in Game 3.
The winner of today’s game between Rowan and Wayne will face the Hope Mills-Gastonia winner at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Rowan-Wayne loser will meet the Hope Mills-Gastonia loser at 12:30 p.m. Cherryville, the pre-tournament favorite with a 39-6 mark, is in the other half of the bracket with Wilmington, Randolph County and Clayton.
Sims Legion Park is located at 1001 North Marietta Street, near Interstate 85.
The stadium is about 60 miles from Salisbury.
To reach the stadium, take I-85 for 59 miles to Exit 17. Briefly follow U.S. 321 south toward Gastonia.
Turn left on North Caldwell and make another quick left on West Sycamore. Then take a left on North Marietta.