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Legion baseball: Rowan vs Greensboro at Newman Park, Friday

Staff report

SALISBURY — Rowan County American Legion baseball fans have gotten used to the team playing deep into July and frequently into August.

Despite 10 regular-season losses, half of them in the Southern Division of Area III, that could happen again this summer.

Things are looking up for Rowan (20-10, 5-5).

Rowan’s 9-2 win against Stanly County at Newman Park on Sunday night ended a rare three-game losing slide and sent the team into the playoffs on a high note.

Rowan also is getting healthier. Slugger Chandler Lippard was able to start as the DH on Sunday or the first time since late May, while starting shortstop Zeb Burns is close to making it back from a hand injury that wasn’t as serious as was initially feared.

Rowan appeared headed for fourth place in its six-team division a week ago, but Stanly County dropped its last three games and fell into a tie for third with Rowan. Rowan swept Stanly in league games, so Rowan enters the playoffs as the division’s No. 3 seed.

Rowan’s first-round playoff opponent will be the Greensboro Post 53 Red Wings (5-12, 4-8), who finished sixth in the seven-team Northern Division of Area III.

Rowan hosts Greensboro on Friday at 7 p.m. at Newman Park to start a best-of-three series.

Rowan won twice against Greensboro early in the season.

Rowan prevailed 6-5 in 11 innings at Greensboro’s home field at Eastern Guilford High. Scout Nichols pitched three shutout relief innings in that one.

Rowan used five pitchers and beat Greensboro 11-4 at Newman Park. Wayne Mize had four RBIs in that one, and Luke Barringer hit a three-run homer.

Leading hitters for Rowan have been outfielder Mize (,440, 41 RBIs), outfielder Barringer (7 homers, 23 RBIs, .314), infielder Cole Hales (,394), outfielder Jordan Goodine (.293, 36 runs, 19 RBIs), catcher Bo Rusher (.273, 22 RBIs) and first baseman Daniel Durham (.292, 14 RBIs).

Assuming Lippard is available, he’ll swing in the middle of the lineup. He makes Rowan’s offense the team’s strongest point. That’s a tough road for opposing pitchers, wading through Rusher, Mize, Barringer and Lippard, and Hales has been red-hot as the lead-off hitter in front of them.

Rowan’s pitching staff has been up and down, but Durham (2-0, 3.86 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 4 walks) has been a reliable lefty starting pitcher all summer and may open the Greensboro series on the mound.

Deacon Wike (3-1, 2.36 ERA, 28 strikeouts, 5 walks) has been consistently good and, no doubt, will start one of the first two games.

Hales (0-2, 2 saves) hasn’t been lucky, but he has tremendous strikeouts-to-walks numbers and a 1.24 ERA. In the playoffs, he’ll either close games or start them.

Rowan will play Game 2 of the Greensboro series on the road Saturday and will return to Newman Park on Sunday if a Game 3 proves necessary.

As the regular-season champion in the Southern Division, Concord, which beat Stanly on Monday and Tuesday, earned a first-round bye.

Stanly will take on Northern Division No. 5 finisher Kernersville in the first round and will start that series on Friday at Ferebee Field.

Mooresville, runner-up in the Southern Division, will open the playoffs at home against Eastern Randolph, which finished seventh in the Northern Division.

Mocksville finished fifth in the Southern Division and will travel to Northern Division No. 4 Stokes County on Friday.

Kannapolis finished sixth in the Southern Division and will play against Northern Division No. 3 High Point at Finch Field on Friday.

Mocksville and Kannapolis will have home games on Saturday.

Randolph County and Davidson County will have first-round byes.



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