American Legion baseball: Rowan wins a big one at Newman Park

Published 1:49 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Nate Hayworth was East Rowan’s fifth pitcher during the high school season, but he may be the ace right now for Rowan County American Legion.

That says something about the state of Legion baseball, but it also says something good about Hayworth, a Tusculum recruit.

Mostly an outfielder, Hayworth (3-0) threw five stellar relief innings against a dangerous Mocksville lineup on Tuesday, and Rowan held on to win 4-2 at Newman Park.

It was the biggest game of the season to this point, with only two of the four Southern Division of Area III teams qualifying for the playoffs.

Rowan is 4-2 in the division after beating Mocksville for the first time. And with only nine games counting in the league, there’s a world of difference between 4-2 and 3-3

Mocksville is 4-3, but that’s expected by everyone in Davie County to become 5-2 very soon. Mocksville coach Tristan “Shaggy” Wyatt is confident his protest of a lost game with Concord will be upheld. Mocksville contends Concord used a player who was not eligible and has paid the fee necessary to file an official appeal.

What is certain right now is that Rowan will play at Kannapolis on Friday, at Mocksville on Saturday, and at home against Concord on Sunday to conclude the regular season.

Kannapolis is 4-3 in the division and has split two games with Rowan, so it’s a three-way fight between pretty good teams for two playoff spots.

Mocksville has won two out of three against Kannapolis. Mocksville and Kannapolis both still have a game left with Concord.

“Crazy schedule, with so few league teams and so few league games,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “So we’re playing a bunch of league games right down at the end.”

Logan Dyer, who had a 12-0 season for East Rowan, started Tuesday’s game on the mound for Rowan County. Dyer pitched a lot of innings in the high school season. Dyer is not injured, but his arm is fatigued — plus Rowan really needs him to play shortstop.

Rowan (13-11) planned to have Dyer start the game as the pitcher, but Hayworth, who has a pretty fresh arm after only occasional mound duties during the high school season, was going to relieve early.

After Dyer battled through two innings, working around three walks and two wild pitches, the score was 1-all.

Hayworth moved from center field to the mound to start the third inning, with Dyer, who also is Rowan’s lead-off hitter, heading to shortstop.

“Hayworth can get ready to pitch very quickly,” Gantt said. “Also, he’s already in the batting order, so we don’t have to make any changes to the lineup.”

Bryson Morrison singled home a run with two men out for Mocksville in the top of the second.

Rowan scratched out the equalizer in the bottom of the second against Mocksville hurler Cooper Bliss on Elijah Palmer’s infield hit, two walks and an infield hit by Dyer.

Rowan’s bottom of the third provided two runs and put the home team ahead to stay. Hayworth walked and Luke Graham singled. Elijah Palmer’s double down the left-field line scored Hayworth. With the infield in, Brant Graham, singled through the right side to score Luke Graham for a 3-1 lead.

Rowan had a golden chance to blow it open at that point, but Bliss got the next three hitters out to strand two.

Hayworth was in some distress after a walk and hit batsman started the fourth inning.

Mocksville bunts often in that situation and tried to bunt again. But the sacrifice attempt failed. Then Hayworth got a ground ball for a huge twin killing, with second baseman Luke Graham making the play for Rowan up the middle.

Morrison, batting in the nine spot in the lineup, was next. He singled in another run to make it a 3-2 game.

Hayworth was tough over the last three innings, putting up a strong of zeroes against dangerous Mocksville hitters.

“Mocksville has a good lineup, and they always are confident they can come back because they’ve had  bunch of walk-off wins,” Gantt said. “We had planned for Joe Burleyson to relieve Hayworth at some point, but Hayworth was doing so well, we just stuck with him.”

Rowan got a key insurance run in the fifth to make it 4-2. Rowan got that run from the bottom of the lineup with two men out and no one on base.

Burleyson and Drew Burton drew walks and advanced on a wild pitch. Burleyson scored when Eli Graham hit a bouncer to third. The throw to first was wide, and Graham was able to elude an attempted tag.

“We got a run there simply because a kid ran as hard as he could from home to first and forced an errant throw,” Gantt said.


Rowan has been missing Alex Hagler, an important pitcher. Hagler had an appendectomy. … Luke Graham had three of Rowan’s nine hits. … Matthew Connolly hit balls hard, but Mocksville snagged his line drives and tracked his long fly balls.