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American Legion Baseball: Rowan County starts playoffs with 10th-inning win – Salisbury Post

American Legion Baseball: Rowan County starts playoffs with 10th inning win

Published on Thursday, July 4, 2024, 18:58

Staff report

SALISBURY – It was a classic American Legion baseball game like the old days, and Rowan County fans enjoyed Wednesday's exciting win over Davidson County like a Cheerwine slushy on a muggy 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 what's next for Rowan County after they pulled out the overtime win with two of their best pitchers and a weaker-than-usual team. It's possible it will be Rowan's last win this summer, but it's also possible that surviving Game 1 will be a springboard for unexpected triumphs. The uncertainty of baseball – games and even seasons can change dramatically with one pitch – is what makes the sport what it is.

Davidson County Post 8 probably should have won Wednesday's game, besieging Rowan County (16-10) well past the point of no return early in the second inning, but Davidson failed to knock out Rowan as he was bleeding and on one knee and ultimately paid the price.

Northern Division runner-up Davidson (17-12) failed to score at all after its three-run first inning. Rowan tied the game with Matthew Connolly's game-winning hit in the seventh inning and won it with hits by Elijah Palmer and Joe Burleyson in the bottom of the tenth.

While Connolly, Palmer and Burleyson were able to make big swings, the man most responsible for Rowan's victory was Nate Hayworth, who moved from center field to the mound early in the fifth inning and struck out Davidson for six innings. Behind him, infielders Lucas Graham and Logan Dyer made big plays. Graham's pike catch at second base in the fifth inning, which took out the first batter Hayworth (4-0) faced, may have changed the course of Hayworth's entire night.

The unsung hero was Rowan's starting pitcher Drew Burton, who was put under pressure right from the start and didn't get much support from the defense.

Davidson got a hit on Burton's very first pitch and could have potentially scored more than three runs in the first inning, but ran into a big out on the bases in the second.

In the second, the score was 3-0 and Davidson had the bases loaded with no outs. If Davidson could score two or three more runs there and the 2-3-4 batters went to bat, there was no good reason to believe Post 8 couldn't do it. Then it was probably over because Davidson's starter Cale Walters was hard to hit and Rowan didn't have the comeback power he needed.

But Burton didn't give up. He got two ground balls to the corners. Rowan got two consecutive force outs at home before Burton threw out the cleanup man. Somehow, it was still 3-0. Burton probably should have gotten four outs in that inning. Rowan's players were sure they had a 5-2-3 double play on that second ground ball, but Rowan didn't get the call at first base.

Burton allowed two more hits in the third inning, including a leadoff double, but no runs. His best inning was the fourth.

Rowan scored two runs in the third inning, while Palmer and Brant Graham walked with the bases full.

The score remained 3-2 until the seventh.

Eli Graham led off with a walk to start the seventh inning, and Davidson called for reliever Carson Daniels in the bullpen. Graham promptly stole second base and continued to run to third base when the throw went to center field.

The roar of the Rowan fans became a whisper moments later when Graham moved on contact, attempting to score on Logan Dyer's bouncer to third base and was thrown out at the plate.

Hope returned when Dyer stole second base. Then Dyer scored the tying point in a close game at home when Connolly hit a line-drive single to left to tie the game 3-3. It stayed that way until Rowan's 10th inning.

In the 10th inning, Palmer hit a ball down the left field line to first for a double, Rowan's only extra-base hit. He reached third base when he missed a throw to second.

Burleyson was next. He rapped the hit that sent the 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.

There was no game on July 4. Rowan will play Game 2 on Friday at Davidson (Holt-Moffitt Field in Lexington). Brant Graham is the likely starting pitcher for Rowan. Rowan will be back home for Game 3 on Saturday.

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NOTES: Only one team from Area III will advance to the state tournament. … Northern Division champion High Point beat Mocksville 10-0 in five innings on Wednesday to open its semifinal series. Max McGinn threw the shutout. Game 2 was scheduled for Thursday night in Mocksville.