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Prep Signings: East's Rogers headed to Guilford for baseball

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY — The two guys who had the toughest high school jobs in Rowan County this season had to be South shortstop Dylan Goodman and East third baseman Avery Rogers.
They were stepping in to positions manned in awesome offensive fashion in 2010 by county co-players of the year Maverick Miles and Noah Holmes.
Goodman, only a sophomore, showed signs of being a future all-county player. Rogers, an unheralded senior, arguably was the county’s top defensive third baseman and his contributions with the bat (.342, 21 RBIs) exceeded all expectations.
“Avery had a good senior season, and I thought he was the best third baseman around,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “We thought he’d have a heck of a glove for us, but he also came through offensively. We worried about not having Noah, and he made us not miss him quite as bad.”
Rogers will play American Legion ball and is the likely starter for Rowan County at third base. In the fall, he’ll head to Guilford to continue his baseball career and education.
It’s likely Rogers will mature into a good pitcher in college. As he gets older, he’ll add strength and stamina to his lean, 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame, and he already possesses sufficient arm strength to succeed at the next level.
Rogers is optimistic he’ll still get to play third base in college, but he realizes it was his right arm that attracted Guilford’s attention.
“I went to a showcase camp at Pfeiffer and was throwing mid-80s,” said Rogers, who said he’s reached 88 mph on radar guns. “The Guilford coaches talked to me, and at first I wasn’t all that interested because Guilford is D-III. But then they told me I probably could start my freshman year and I could get $20,000 to $28,000 in scholarships.”
Rogers’ visit to the Greensboro school went well, and he signed.
“Guilford doesn’t offer exactly what I want to study, but I’m going to start in the math and physics program,” Rogers said. “Hopefully, that will lead to something in technology and engineering, maybe at N.C. State, later on.”
As a D-III school, Guilford can’t give athletic scholarships, but it does find academic scholarships for great students who are also good athletes. Rogers fits that description on both ends.
He is a very good athlete. He led the East Rowan basketball team in scoring last winter with 8.5 points per game, and while the Mustangs weren’t exactly the Miami Heat, he did pump in 23 against Concord and 22 against Statesville, two very talented teams.
Stopwatches time him as an average runner, but he’s above-average on the bases. He can get a jump and he can read pitchers. He was 8-for-8 on steal attempts.
Rogers is also among the top students in East’s senior class. He owns a GPA in the 4.7 range, plus a sterling SAT score. Rogers’ teammates Luke Thomas and Jamey Blalock are right at the top of East’s class of 2011 as well.
“We’ve got as strong a group academically as we’ve ever had here,” Hightower said.
Rogers was a part-time player as a junior on East’s 31-2 state championship team. He filled in at shortstop when regular shortstop Preston Troutman pitched, and he was given a few opportunities to earn a regular job in the outfield.
In 49 official at-bats, he batted .286 and drove in seven runs. He only pitched twice on a team with a host of arms. He was 1-0, winning in relief at Staton Field against Davie County.
He entered 2011 without fanfare, but he was Hightower’s third baseman opening day against Mount Tabor. He went 2-for-2 with three RBIs to get his senior year off to a good start and never really hit a slump.He had eight multi-hit games and had three hits in a trio of ballgames.
“He’s not a power guy, but he’s a good middle-of-the-field to opposite-field hitter, and he was a heads-up guy on the bases,” Hightower said. “His offensive numbers were too good to ignore, and he was fun to watch at third base. He made the routine plays consistently, plus some great ones.”
Rogers’ defensive gems included an amazing backhand play on a shot down the line at home against North Iredell that Brooks Robinson would’ve been thrilled to have made.
Even better was the diving catch he made of a bunt against West Iredell in the NPC tournament championship game. That snag resulted in a rare triple play and was the key moment in a 1-0 victory.
Fans will remember for years that East pulled off the hidden-ball trick to preserve that win, but without Rogers’ play, the trickery would never have happened.
“I was pretty happy with the season I had defensively at third base,” Rogers said. “Four errors, all on throws, at third, plus one error when I was playing shortstop.”
Rogers’ ability to slide over to shortstop proved an asset when Hightower used regular Justin Morris on the mound in the stretch run.
With the emergence of Bradley Robbins as a mound stud, Rogers wasn’t called on to pitch often as a senior, and his ERA was wrecked for the year by one ill-fated appearance against Davie.
Still, his seven mound appearances showed future promise. He struck out 20 in 132/3 innings.
Rogers’ stellar season was capped by the announcement that he’d been chosen to play in the two-game East-West All-Star series for graduating seniors that will be contested in Winston-Salem on June 15.
Hightower’s had many great players at East, but he said Rogers is the first he’s had to play in the all-star showcase for seniors.
“It probably would’ve meant more to me if I hadn’t already signed with Guilford, but it’s still a great honor,” Rogers said.
For a guy who had the toughest job in the county coming in, Rogers had himself quite a year as Holmes’ replacement.
“Offensively, there’s no way I could do what Noah did because he’s one of the best hitters to ever come along,” Rogers said modestly. “But defensively, I did OK.”
Hightower has another tough task now. He’s got to find a replacement for Rogers.

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