American Legion baseball: Rowan clobbered by High Point, falls to 0-2

Published 10:42 pm Sunday, May 26, 2024

By Mike London

THOMASVILLE — When the highlight of the day is avoiding the 10-run rule, you know it’s not a great outing.

Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team lost 10-1 to High Point on Sunday afternoon at Finch Field.

High Point scored four runs in the first inning, added three in the third and cruised from there.

“High Point is always good,” said Seth Graham, who is guiding the Rowan team, with Jim Gantt preparing to lead Catawba College into the D-II World Series.

High Point’s lead-off man Cuyler Baxter, who tripled to get the first-inning party started, is a Wake Forest recruit. Not many Legion programs attract players of that magnitude anymore.

High Point started the game with 6-foot-5 Lenoir-Rhyne recruit Grayson McDonald on the mound, and followed him with 6-foot-3 UNC Asheville recruit Tony Lopez. Needless to say, it wasn’t a banner day for Rowan hitters.

Luke Graham, returning to the Rowan Legion program after a solid freshman year at Surry Community College, had a single in the first inning, but Rowan didn’t get another hit in McDonald’s four innings on the bump.

Southern Smith-Tilley got Rowan’s second hit, a single in the sixth. By then, Rowan was down 8-0.

Smith-Tilley scored Rowan’s run in the sixth, making steady progress around the bases on a stolen base, a passed ball and a wild pitch.

Smith-Tilley, who played right field for Rowan on Sunday, is from Mooresville.

That’s good news and bad news. He’s a welcome addition, but he’s able to play for Rowan because Mooresville isn’t fielding a Legion team for the first time in a while.

Rowan (0-2) finished with four hits, one more than Rowan managed in a 2-1 loss to Davidson County on Saturday. Cole Price and Gage Scruggs had singles in the seventh.

Besides pitching four strong innings, McDonald had a two-run double in the first inning. That was the key hit of the game. for Post 87, which is coached by former Catawba slugger Luke Spiva.

Rowan started Evan Koontz (0-1) on the mound. The Salisbury right-hander struggled in the first, was awesome in the second, striking out the side, and then ran into trouble again in the third. Rowan used Nate Green, Connor Park and Brant Graham in relief. Park, a lefty, is another player from Mooresville.

“We didn’t make some plays we could have made,” Coach Graham said. “If we make them, it’s a lot more manageable game for our pitchers.”

High Point had no shortage of baserunners. That gave Rowan a chance to turn two double plays — a 5-4-3 that was started by third baseman Drew Burton and a 6-4-3. That 6-4-3 involved three Grahams — shortstop Eli Graham. second baseman Luke Graham and first baseman Brant Graham.

Rowan will get deeper and stronger when the players from a 32-2 East Rowan team finish the high school season.

Coach Graham said the team expects to add five Mustangs — outfielders Braden Shive and Nate Hayworth, pitcher/infielder Logan Dyer, pitcher/catcher Joe Burleyson and Krys Hernandez, who can play a variety of positions.

“Until we’re at full strength, we may struggle to score runs,” Graham said.

Rowan has no Carson players on the roster.

Carson products Hayden Simmerson, Dylan Driver, Cole Hales, Logan Rogers, Cam Burleyson, Zeb Burns, Ryan Street and Chase Drinkard played for Rowan Legion and now are a huge part of Catawba’s championship team.

Graham said the absence of Cougars was “disappointing.”  He cited three reasons — beach vacations, showcase baseball and other Legion programs. He said some Carson players requested releases to play for Kannapolis. They were granted.

Rowan is scheduled to play its next game on Wednesday at Randolph County.