Legion baseball: Rowan home for second-round game tonight

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2018

By Mike London

SALISBURY — There’s no break between the first and second rounds of the Area III American Legion playoffs.

Stanly County, coming off a tough, best-of-three, first-round series with Eastern Randolph that included a pair of road wins in Ramseur, takes on rested Rowan County at Newman Park tonight as a best-of-five quarterfinal series gets under way at 7 p.m.

Stanly (9-15) clinched its series last night, 9-7, and did it largely with a three-run homer by Hunter Sells that capped a six-run second inning. Stanly, the fifth-place finisher in the Southern Division, was a slight underdog against Eastern Randolph, the No. 4 seed from the Northern Division, but Post 76 advanced.

Rowan (22-6) earned a first-round bye with its sixth straight Southern Division championship and hasn’t been in action since it edged Mooresville, 4-3, to close the regular season on Sunday.

Head coach Jim Gantt indicated that veteran John Owen, who is 5-1 this season and 16-3 in his four-year Legion career, will be on the mound for Rowan tonight.

Rowan already has beaten Stanly four times this season.

In a wild game in May that didn’t count in the division standings, Rowan scored six runs in the first inning and won, 15-9.

Rowan smacked Stanly 13-3 in another non-league game, with Owen pitching into the seventh inning. That was the game in which Rowan slugger Luke Barringer mashed three doubles.

In a division game with Stanly at Newman Park, Post 342 rode Hayden Setzer to a 3-0 victory. Setzer not only pitched a shutout, he led off the first inning with a homer.

Most recently in a division game at Albemarle, Maddux Holshouser pitched Rowan to a 5-2 win and Setzer had a two-run triple.

Rowan has won nine straight against Stanly, with Post 76’s most recent victory (by an 8-2 score) coming early in the 2015 season at Newman Park. Zac Almond, who would later star at Catawba College for Gantt, belted a homer for Stanly in that one.

Rowan has not encountered Stanly in a playoff series in a surprisingly long time, not since Rowan tangled with Post 76 in a second-round series in 2009. That was the Rowan team that made it all the way to the World Series in Fargo, N.D., but Stanly beat Rowan once in a best-of-five series.

Setzer has been a terrific player against Stanly the last two seasons. He left a game last Saturday with a forearm issue,  but Gantt says he’s good to go now. That means Setzer is the probable pitcher for Game 2 of this series at Stanly’s Don Montgomery Park on Saturday, with Holshouser probable for Game 3 at Newman Park on Sunday.