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American Legion Baseball: Myers belts two homers in Rowan romp

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County catcher Dustin Ritchie’s pre-game words of encouragement to pitcher Tyler Scruggs were simple and hopeful: “Hold High Point to four runs and we’ll win.”
Scruggs, Rowan’s No. 5 starter and a right-hander who didn’t pitch at all in the Area III semifinal series with Randolph County, exceeded Ritchie’s expectations. He limited High Point to six hits and one run in six innings, and Rowan cruised, 8-1, in the first game of the best-of-three Area III championship series.
“My fastball was working and I located it,” said Scruggs, who boosted his record to 2-1. “I mixed in change-ups and I got the DH once on a curveball.”
High Point scored a run in the third on a bunt by Ryne Stanley, but Ritchie threw out Stanley, trying to steal, to limit the damage in that inning. Scruggs rolled from there.
“Scruggs did everything he was supposed to do,” Rowan left fielder Riley Myers said.
Bryan Ketchie tossed three shutout innings to earn a save, and Rowan defenders made every conceivable play behind both hurlers. Myers made a diving catch, Harrison Baucom made a running catch in right, and Kacey Otto ended the game with a tumbling grab in center.
“It’s good to see guys aren’t just standing out there waiting for their next turn at-bat,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “We were communicating tonight on defense, infielders and outfielders. That turned some potentially hard plays into easier plays.”
Offensively, Myers’s two solo homers were the story for Rowan (24-6), which has won 22 of its last 24 games and is 7-1 in the playoffs.
Myers hit two homers in Rowan’s first 29 games, but his third and fourth homers came only an hour apart. He homered leading off the second inning for a 1-0 lead and launched another to right-center, leading off the seventh to expand Rowan’s lead to 7-1.
“I really don’t know where that came from,” Myers said with a smile. “I went up there hunting fastballs and got fastballs to hit. It just happened.”
High Point (25-7) committed six errors and had a base running miscue.
“That’s seven mistakes, and errors and walks cost us this game,” High Point coach Rob Shore said. “Rowan did a better job when they had men on base, but they only had three more hits than we did.”
Rowan was rested and ready after winning a four-game series with Randolph County. High Point came in off a grueling, six-day series (five games, one rainout) with Eastern Randolph in which High Point had to win the last three games in a row to advance. That series ended Friday.
“High Point was taxed with their pitching and we knew that,” Gantt said. “But they still had their hitters. Scruggs and Ketchie did a good job of holding their bats down.”
Rowan’s bats weren’t held down often. There were no big innings, but Rowan pushed across a run (or two) in six different innings. Otto went 3-for-4 and scored twice. Baucom was on base four times, had two hits and scored twice. Michael Caldwell had a run-scoring single in the third inning for a 3-1 lead and a sacrifice fly in the fifth that made it 4-1.
“We’ve played 10 games in 12 days, but we’re not going to blame what happened on being tired,” Shore said. “This was our worst game all season, but you have to learn to play baseball when you’re tired and you’ve got to play better defense than we played. We showed what we’re capable of by beating Eastern Randolph three straight games. We’ll come back and play better in Game 2.”
Today’s game will start at 5 p.m. at Thomasville’s Finch Field. Game 3, if necessary, will be at Newman Park at 7 p.m. on Monday.
•••
NOTES: While both teams want to win the Area III championship, both already have qualified for a much bigger dance — the state tournament at Newman Park, July 23-28. … Noah Jarrett will start Sunday’s game for Rowan. Rowan is resting ace Omar Bautista until the state tournament.

High Point 001 000 000 — 1 8 6
Rowan County 021 012 11x — 8 11 1
W — Scruggs (2-1). L — M. Stanley (4-2). S — Ketchie (2).
HR — Myers 2 (4).

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