Legion Baseball Playoffs: High Point 4, Rowan 3
By Zach Kepley
HIGH POINT — A three-run lead makes High Point feel quite comfortable when ace SeanGeoghegan is on the bump.
Fifth-seeded Rowan County took them out of that comfort zone and nearly pulled the upset Monday.
Breaking up Geoghegan’s perfect game, no-hitter and shutout in the seventh inning with a solo run, Post 342 scored twice more in the eighth to tie the game. The comeback ended there, as Mitch Carstens coasted home with the winning run on a wild pitch in the home half of the eighth, giving the Junior HiToms a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five, Area III American Legion semifinal series with the 4-3 win at Finch Field.
“That is what they have been doing,” said Post 87 coach Rob Shore. “The game is not even close to being over when you play them.”
Geoghegan and Rowan starter Jared Mathis, were finding success in the first three innings. The 6-6 lefty for Post 87 struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced, while Mathis was not as powerful but equally effective.
Second-seeded High Point (24-5) put an end to the pitching battle in the fourth, breaking out the power sticks for two deep home runs. Pete Guy delivered the initial blow with a man on, drilling a mammoth shot into the trees down the left field line.
Mathis got Andrew Madden to flyout to left field for the second out, but was roughed up one more time as Nick Blackwood took a turn going deep.
His shot to right-center hit off the netting, pushing the Post 87 advantage to 3-0.
Giving Geoghegan that kind of margin is nearly impossible to overcome. Post 342 set out to prove it could be done.
Brian Bauk broke up the perfect game in the seventh, drawing a one-out walk on a borderline payoff pitch. Geoghegan awarded him second and third on a botched pickoff attempt. The no-hitter disappeared when Ashton Fleming singled deep into the hole at second. Second baseman Tiger Miller made the backhand grab, but his spikes caught in the dirt as he rotated to throw over to first. Fleming reached and Bauk crossed home with the visitor’s first run.
Rowan (18-18) continued to figure out Geoghegan in the eighth, delivering three straight singles to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Nathan Fulbright lifted a fly ball to center to score Bryson Prugh.
with the second run. Two batters later, Fleming singled to center to
easily score Austin McNeill. Rounding third and digging for home as the
go-ahead run, Chase Hathcock was cut down at the plate on a strong throw
from Madden, leaving the game deadlocked at 3-3.
“They have done this all year,” said Rowan coach Jim Gantt. “The guys do
not give up. That is a good quality that they have. I think we got
Geoghegan tired because we swung and missed a lot and strikeouts run a
pitch count up. I think he thought he had a strikeout on the walk that
ruined the perfect game, then we got the little hit at second that guy
probably makes a lot. I guess we just started hitting it in the right spot.”
Shore felt his No. 1 hurler may have been rattled just a bit after not
getting the close pitch to Bauk and losing his shot at perfection.
“We felt like we had the guy struck out and I think that bothered Sean a
little bit,” he said. But that is the sharpest I have seen him in a while.”
With new life, Rowan took the field in the eighth and immediately put
High Point back in control. Mitch Carstens reached on an error by the
shortstop and took second on the errant throw. Swinging away instead of
bunting, Victor Zecca moved Carstens to third with a deep flyout to center.
Post 342 went to its bullpen for Alex Bost. He struck out Chris Ferrante
with the second out and needed only to get Guy out to escape. Instead,
Bost had his pitch reach the backstop and Carstens raced home for a 4-3
Closing it out in the ninth for Geoghegan, Carstens struck out two in
sending the guests down in order.
“We have been winning these close games all year long,” said Shore.
“Tomorrow night is going to be tough as well. Anytime you can go into
Rowan County and steal a game away it is a big deal. We are going to be
playing in front of about 1,500 people probably, and we need to go out
and do business like we have done before.”
For Rowan, being behind in a series is nothing new. They trailed
Mocksville 2-0 in the quarterfinals before reeling off three straight
wins to advance. Gantt feels his team will put this loss behind them
quickly and be ready to go today at Newman Park.
“At batting practice you will not be able to tell if they won or lost
this game,” he said. “I do not know if that is a good or bad trait, but
they will be ready to play and not give up tomorrow night either.”
Notes: Geoghegan struck out 12 for the night … High Point collected
five hits and Rowan had four … Game 2 is slated for 7 p.m.
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