Legion baseball playoffs: Rowan 5, High Point 0
By Mike London
SALISBURY — No one would’ve blamed Rowan County right-hander Avery Rogers if he’d been awful on Saturday.
The recipe was in place for a pitching disaster after lightning and black skies forced an 80-minute delay prior to the first pitch at Newman Park.
“I had to warm up three or four different times, and my arm felt kinda tight,” Rogers said. “I didn’t feel like I was throwing that well. I knew I’d have to hit spots.”
So naturally Rogers went out and pitched seven innings of no-hit ball and keyed a 5-0 victory against High Point.
Pitching against Guilford teammate Justin Morrison, Rogers struck out six, walked three and hit three. He kept the ball on the hands of High Point’s power hitters and got nine outs on groundballs.
“He pitched well, but I don’t know that he pitched a lot different than what we’ve been seeing,” High Point coach Rob Shore said. “We’re just not doing our jobs at the plate. We’re thinking too much, and we’re not hitting. These last two games we’ve played our worst two games all year — and now isn’t a good time for that.”
Rowan has won those two games to deadlock the best-of-five series. A decisive Game 5 is set for Finch Field tonight.
The loser ends its season. The winner advances to the Area III championship series against Randolph and qualifies for the state tournament.
Rogers escaped a bases-loaded mess in the sixth only because second baseman Chase Hathcock backed up an overthrow and fired across the diamond to nail a runner at third base.
“I was just where I was supposed to be backing up,” Hathcock said. “You never know when there’s going to be an error.”
Rowan (20-19) scratched a run in the fifth on Justin Evans’ HBP and singles by Rogers (4-for-4) and Hathcock. Dakota Brown’s groundball to shortstop was nearly an inning-ending double play, but he beat the throw to first by a hair as Evans scored.
“If he doesn’t hustle all the way, he doesn’t beat it out, but that’s Dakota,” Gantt said. “He’ll give you all he’s got.”
Everything went Rowan’s way in a four-run bottom of the seventh that finally brought some breathing room.
First, Mathis wisely elected not to tag from third on Hathcock’s fly to medium right. He would’ve been out.
Then with the bases loaded and two out, Will Sapp took a close 3-2 pitch for ball four to force in the run that made it 2-0. That call left Shore barking in disbelief, and every High Point fan believed the pitch had been a strike.
High Point (25-7) was still fuming over Sapp’s walk when Brian Bauk slashed a bases-clearing triple down the left-field line to make it 5-0.
“He’d been jamming me all night,” Bauk said. “But he made a mistake with a pitch away, and I was able to put some runs on the board.”
Rogers knew he had a no-hitter through seven, and Gantt knew it as well.
“Avery was great and yes he had a no-hitter, but he was very tired,” Gantt said.
A weary Rogers had thrown 106 pitches, so he was far from upset when Alex Bost was called on for relief.
Bost struck out the side with two men on in the eighth and he got through the ninth with the help of two fine plays in center field by Sapp.