Legion State Tournament Notebook: Familiar foe awaits Rowan
By Bret Strelow
The Legion notebook …
GASTONIA ó Rowan County arrived early enough to witness Randolph County’s dismantling of Cherryville on Wednesday afternoon.
Rowan (34-14) will see Randolph (37-11) again today at Sims Legion Park, and the Area III finalists will meet for the sixth time in 11 days.
Rowan remained unbeaten in the American Legion state tournament thanks to a 7-4 victory against Hope Mills on Wednesday night. Randolph, the only other squad with a 2-0 mark in the double-elimination event, will face Rowan tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“It’ll be a real good game,” Rowan center fielder Micah Jarrett said. “We know pretty much all there is to know about each other.”
The teams played each other twice during the regular season, and the Area III finals went the distance. Randolph won Game 5 of that series last Friday.
Rowan defeated the Area I champion (Wayne County) and the Area II champ (Hope Mills) during the first two days of the state tournament. Randolph beat Area I runner-up Clayton and routed Area IV champ Cherryville by a 12-2 count. That contest lasted only eight innings.
“It says a lot about our area that both teams from Area III are in the winners bracket at this point,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “It doesn’t mean either of us is going to win it, but it tells you about the level of the baseball there.”
Tyler McSwain is the probable starter for Randolph tonight. Gantt will likely send left-hander Russell Michalec (6-2) to the mound.
Michalec started both regular-season matchups against Randolph and earned the victory in Game 3 of the Area III finals.
“It’s nothing but a thing,” Michalec said of facing one team four times. “In the majors, they do it all the time. They’re a little better, of course. I have to go out there and throw strikes.”
Two big innings helped Randolph pull away from Cherryville.
McSwain hit a three-run homer in a five-run third that broke a scoreless tie, and Austin Moyer’s three-run shot capped a five-run seventh. Moyer picked up the victory.
MICHALEC’S WELL-TIMED MISTAKE: Michalec hit his third homer of the season and Rowan’s third of the tournament leading off the sixth inning against Hope Mills.
Michalec drilled a fastball from Tre Britt over the left-field wall.
“I was just looking to hit something the other way,” Michalec said. “Coach Gantt always says home runs are mistakes, and I guess I got one there.”
POWER SURGE: Hope Mills (21-8) fell into the losers bracket and will face Clayton (20-12) today at 4:30 p.m.
Clayton avoided elimination with a 6-5 victory against Wilmington on Wednesday morning.
Clayton trailed 5-1 going to the bottom of the sixth inning, and Brad Fletcher crushed Wilmington’s hopes.
Fletcher, who hit one home run in 17 games this spring as an infielder at Louisburg, connected for a two-run shot in the sixth to pull Clayton within 5-3. With two away in the seventh, Fletcher put his team ahead with a three-run homer.
SHORT STAY: Like Wilmington, Wayne went 0-2. It lost 9-8 to tournament host Gastonia in the second game Wednesday. A five-run third inning gave Wayne a 7-2 lead, but Gastonia jumped in front with a nine-hit, seven-run fifth.
Gastonia (9-19) will meet Cherryville (40-7) today at 12:30 p.m.