Legion baseball playoffs: High Point 6, Rowan 4
By Mike London
THOMASVILLE — High Point second baseman Victor Zecca gloved Brian Bauk’s chopper, whirled in the air, fired a strike to first base and ended Rowan County’s season.
High Point recovered from a 4-0 deficit to win 6-4 and qualified for the Area III championship series and the state tournament by taking a series-deciding Game 5 against Rowan at Finch Field on Sunday.
“If Zecca bobbles that ball or doesn’t make an accurate throw, we score two,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “But he’s a dynamic player.”
Avery Rogers would have scored from third on Bauk’s bouncer, and Will Sapp, who was flying, would have scored the tying from second had Bauk been ruled safe at first. But Bauk was out on a bang-bang play.
High Point coach Rob Shore has a defensive lineup and an offensive lineup. He went with offense because his team had been struggling at the plate, and that put Zecca at second base instead of right field.
“Nine times out 10 that play he made is a hit,” Shore said.
It was all Rowan early.
Sapp opened the game with a walk after an 11-pitch scrap with HP lefty Sean Geoghegan, and Rowan got two quick runs on Justin Evans’ RBI single and a two-out error.
Sapp unloaded a homer to left in the second for a 3-0 lead. In the third, Nathan Fulbright scored on Evans’ bounceout to make it 4-0.
“We got together and I told the guys we had to hold them at four and if we did we’d be OK,” Shore said. “They won the first half of a boxing match, but then we picked ourselves up and battled.”
Rowan starter Jared Mathis had a swerving curveball and was perfect for four innings, but when High Point turned a double play in the fifth, the tide began to turn.
Erik Connolly’s two-run single past third in the fifth put HP (26-7) on the board.
“Rowan’s pitchers all had good breaking balls and I’d struggled against curves all series, so I was sitting on a curve there,” Connolly said.
With the bases loaded, Rowan third baseman Avery Rogers was playing in for a play at the plate. He nearly gloved Connolly’s liner as it sliced by him into left field.
“And if Avery catches it, it’s a double play — or maybe a triple play,” Gantt said.
It all fell apart for Rowan in the sixth, as Gantt made two pitching changes and even a catching change. But High Point scored three times without a hit. Gantt knew he could count on Alex Bost to pitch the seventh and eighth, and Bauk would’ve closed in the ninth, but Rowan just couldn’t find any answers in the sixth. Three walks, a hit batsman, two wild pitches and a passed ball handed Post 87 a 5-4 lead.
Reliever Tyler Britton shut Rowan down in the seventh and eighth, and Connolly’s sac fly pushed HP’s lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the eighth.
Rogers and Chase Hathcock led off the ninth with hits as Rowan (20-20) tried to rally, but Rowan couldn’t get a bunt down, and Zecca’s stellar play dashed the last hope.
“It was a tough way to end it, but that’s just how it goes,” Sapp said. “I will say this team never gave up. We were counted out a couple of times, but we never gave up.”