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Legion baseball: High Point cruises at Newman Park

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Tyrese Hearst won four games pitching for Division II Winston-Salem State this year, so Sunday’s assignment against the Rowan County American Legion team wasn’t all that challenging for him.

Hearst breezed through five innings at Newman Park, striking out seven and limiting Rowan County to an unearned run. The 6-foot-2 right-hander overpowered Rowan hitters at times and fooled them at others. He threw 83 pitches and about 80 were effective. He struck out the side in the third and fanned two more batters in the fifth after Rowan offered a mild threat with two on and one out.

High Point won, 6-2, although it felt more one-sided than that. Post 87 out-hit, out-pitched and out-fielded a Rowan squad that still owns a tidy 10-3 record but has dropped three of its last four outings, including two setbacks at Newman Park. Rowan only lost once at Newman Park all last season, falling to Randolph County in mid-July.

Rowan had one of its best on the mound on Sunday, lefty Hayden Setzer (2-1), but he wasn’t at his sharpest and his defense didn’t help him enough.

Setzer, a Catawba signee, sailed through the first two innings in good shape, but the top of the third proved disastrous for him and Rowan.

With one out, No. 9 batter Mark McLamb singled solidly. Then Setzer hit lead-off man Jacob Edwards with a curveball.

Setzer needed a groundball — and got one. But it was stroked hard and it skipped through second baseman Cameron Graham, who probably had an inning-ending double play if he’d been able to come up with the ball cleanly. A run scored, and it was, 1-0. Colin Smith’s double made it 2-0.

Setzer got his second strikeout of the inning and had a chance to keep the game close, but a walk filled the bases, and then Hearst walked to the plate.

Hearst, a hard-hitting outfielder/first baseman in his high school days at Westchester Country Day, didn’t swing a bat at all in college, but he obviously can still hit. He cleared the bases, pulling a double down the left-field line. That made it 5-0, and the way Hearst was throwing, that was basically the ballgame. Fans could have packed up their lawn chairs.

Rowan managed to score against Hearst in the third. John Owen got on base to start the inning and made it to third on a dropped flyball. He scored from there when Hearst balked.

Two Rowan errors, one on a throwing miscue by Setzer on a comebacker that was a potential double play, handed High Point its sixth run in the fourth.

Setzer lasted five innings. While he allowed six runs, just one was earned. Hearst never should have gotten to the plate to do the big damage in the third.

Lefty Daniel Durham threw two great innings of relief, but Rowan went down quietly in the sixth against High Point reliever Avery Cain, a Ledford product who will play at Winston-Salem State.

When Cain hit a batter and allowed a run-scoring double to the wall by Bryson Wagner in the seventh, southpaw Koty Proctor entered the game and finished off Rowan with a couple of strikeouts.

High Point pitchers combined to strike out 11.

Rowan’s hardest hit ball against Hearst was a liner in the second inning by Luke Barringer that was chased down in the gap by Edwards, the center fielder for Post 87.

As the host team, High Point is guaranteed a berth in this year’s state tournament at Finch Field, but Post 87 might have the horses to earn its way there as the Area III champion.

High Point was way down last season (13-17), but Post 87 is almost always one of the best in Area III, heading to state tournaments as Area III champion in  2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016 and also qualifying for the state tournament as Area III runner-up behind Rowan in 2015. Even when Rowan finished second nationally in 2016, it lost to High Point in the tussle for the Area III title.

Rowan gets tonight off and will play a nine-inning game at Area IV power Cherryville on Tuesday.  Rowan is at Randolph County on Wednesday.

Rowan, Randolph and Garner are scheduled to battle Florence, Sumter and Rock Hill this weekend at Newman Park in the annual NC/SC Challenge.

High Point     005  100  0   — 6   4   2

Rowan           001   000  1   — 2   2    3

W — Hearst. L — Setzer (2-1).

Leading hitters — High Point: Hearst 3 RBIs. Rowan: Wagner RBI double.

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