American Legion baseball: Rowan wins in extras; Mocksville evens series with High Point

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Staff report

SALISBURY — It was a classic American Legion baseball game, like old times and Rowan County fans savored Wednesday’s exciting victory against Davidson County like a Cheerwine Slushy on a steamy July day.

Rowan County won 4-3 in 10 innings at Newman Park to open a best-of-five playoff series in the Area III playoffs.

It’s hard to say where Rowan County goes from here after using two of the top pitchers on a thinner than usual staff to record the extra-inning victory. It’s possible it will be Rowan’s last victory of the summer, but it’s also possible that surviving Game 1 is going to be a springboard to unexpected triumphs. The uncertainty of baseball — games and even seasons can swing dramatically on one pitch — makes the sport what it is.

Davidson County Post 8 probably should have won Wednesday’s game, probably should have buried Rowan County (16-10) well past the point of no return in the top of the second inning, but Davidson failed to knock Rowan out when it was bleeding and down on one knee, and eventually paid the price.

Northern Division runner-up Davidson (17-12) didn’t score at all after its three-run first inning. Rowan tied the game on Matthew Connolly’s clutch hit in the seventh and won it on hits by Elijah Palmer and Joe Burleyson in the bottom of the 10th.

While Connolly, Palmer and Burleyson came through with big swings, the man most responsible for Rowan winning was Nate Hayworth, who moved from center field to the mound to start the fifth inning and shut out Davidson for six innings. Infielders Lucas Graham and Logan Dyer made terrific plays behind him. Graham’s diving catch at second base in the fifth to retire the first batter Hayworth (4-0) faced may have changed the direction of Hayworth’s whole night.

The unsung hero was Rowan starting pitcher Drew Burton, who was being pounded like a bass drum early and wasn’t getting great defensive support.

Davidson got a hit on Burton’s very first pitch and might have gotten more than three runs in the first, but ran into a big second out on the bases.

It was 3-0 in the top of the second and Davidson had the bases loaded with no outs. If Davidson gets two or three more runs there, and with the 2-3-4 batters coming to the plate, there was no good reason to think Post 8 wouldn’t, it was probably over because Davidson starter Cale Walters was tough to hit, and Rowan doesn’t have a ton of comeback power.

But Burton didn’t fold. He got two ground balls to the corners. Rowan got back-to-back force outs at home before Burton struck out the cleanup man. Somehow it was still 3-0. Burton probably had to get four outs in that inning. Rowan players were certain they had a 5-2-3 double play on that second ground ball, but Rowan didn’t get the call at first base.

Burton gave up two more hits in the third, including a lead-off double, but no runs. His best inning was the fourth.

Rowan scratched out two runs in the bottom of the third with Palmer and Brant Graham drawing bases-loaded walks.

It stayed 3-2 until the seventh.

Eli Graham walked to start the bottom of the seventh and Davidson made a call to the bullpen for reliever Carson Daniels. Graham promptly stole second and continued to third when the throw went into center field.

The roars of Rowan fans became a whisper moments later, when Graham, moving on contact, tried to score on Logan Dyer’s bouncer to third, and was thrown out at the plate.

Hope returned when Dyer stole second. Then Dyer scored the tying run on a close play at home when Connolly ripped a line-drive single to left. That made it 3-3. It stayed that way until the Rowan 10th.

In the 10th, Palmer led off and smashed a ball down the left-field line for a double, Rowan’s only extra-base hit. He took third when the throw to second got away.

Burleyson was next. He rapped the solid hit that sent fans home happy.

Rowan had four runs on seven hits and made two errors. Davidson had three runs on eight hits and made three errors.

No game was played on the Fourth of July. Rowan played Game 2 at Davidson (Holt-Moffitt Field in Lexington) on Friday and Game 3 at Newman Park on Saturday.


Northern Division champ High Point pounded Mocksville 10-0 in five innings to open their semifinal series on Wednesday.

Max McGinn pitched the shutout.


Mocksville bounced back big in Game 2 and trounced High Point 12-2 at Rich Park on Thursday.

Mocksville scored nine runs in the second inning and won by the 10-run rule.

Evan Hyde and Cooper Bliss homered for Mocksville (9-13).

Mocksville also got big offensive games from Shawn Sealey (3-for-3) and Caden Irvin (3 RBIs).

High Point (18-5) hosted Game 3 at Finch Field on Friday.


Area IV has 13 teams this year.

All made the playoffs. The field has been reduced to eight teams now.

Shelby and Rutherford are the top two seeds.

Cherryville is seeded third. Cherryville will be in the state tournament as the host team.

Cherryville coach Bobby Dale Reynolds registered his 900th career win on Wednesday.

Also still alive are Gaston, Asheville, Union, Gastonia and Burke.