Legion Baseball: Moore remembers record-setting 1993
SALISBURY — Twenty years ago, Sandy Moore walked into Newman Park expecting to wear a Rowan County uniform for a week or so before he was told, “Maybe next year.”
But that was a season that would journey deep into August, and Moore would stick around for all of it.
Moore believes the key to that summer wasn’t a player — it was head coach Jim DeHart, who passed away recently.
“I met a coach that summer who was concerned with the bigger picture, the team concept,” Moore said. “He had the belief that if you could do it one time, there was nothing stopping you from doing it again.”
DeHart’s 1993 team, the fourth of his 11 Rowan squads, became part of Newman Park’s rich history — a state champion. That team kept a chain intact of at least one state title every decade — 1955, 1969, 1971, 1984, 1993, 2002 and 2009.
The 1993 group stands out, even among champions. That team scored more runs (509) and won more games (47) than any Rowan team before or since. It’s astonishing that Rowan topped 500 runs with only 15 homers. That team rocked the scoreboard with the stolen base, nearly 200 of them.
“Kirk Huffman would get on, so Jason Ofsanko would get a good pitch to hit, and then they would both steal,” Moore said. “It got to be routine.”
Huffman’s 88 runs in 1993 remain the program record. No one has ever come close to his 79 steals. Ofanko’s 49 steals rank second all-time, while his 80 runs rank fourth.
Keith Knight, Tim Still, Allen Livengood and Bryan Surratt drove the speed guys in. Knight had 68 RBIs.
Still’s 26 doubles were a program record until Trey Holmes pounded 28 for the 2009 World Series team. At the bottom of DeHart’s lineup were talented kids — David Trexler and Jason Foster — big guns of future teams. Kendall Vaughn and Jeremy Lefler combined for another 30 RBIs.
The team Rowan might’ve had is mind-boggling. Chandler Shaw, county batting champ, missed the season with a separated shoulder, while Darren Blakely, who would hit 140 minor-league homers, broke his hand.
“We had serious talent that made it difficult for opposing pitchers,” Moore said. “But at the same time, a lot of us were new to that level of play. Regardless, Coach DeHart believed in every one of us.”
The pitching was reliable. Knight and Chad Saine won 10 games each. Mike Morris, Russell Holshouser, David Holshouser, Moore and Raye Lee had their moments.
Moore started off 6-0 and still thought he might be a victim of the final roster cuts. Rowan was that good.
Moore remembers a regular-season game against Mooresville best.
“We’re down 10-0, and Coach DeHart tells me to get loose,” Moore said. “He told me if I threw strikes and got outs, we’d win. My dad (Jack) was furious because he thought I’d been sent in there to mop up. But as we did a lot of times that summer, we came back and won.”
DeHart was a hands-on coach. Moore remembers him wearing himself out hitting batting practice fungoes.
“He loved getting on the rubber and demonstrating a delivery or pickoff play,” Moore said. “He always had his coffee — said it kept him cool. He would steal a kiss from his wife (Betty) when she came in the park. He knew the umpires, and they knew him. He defended his players. He was a winner.”
Moore remembers a surprising early loss to Surry sewed seeds of doubt, but DeHart steadily built confidence.
“Even when I wasn’t good, Coach found something nice to say about me,” Moore said with a laugh. “If I hadn’t had my curve or my changeup, he’d still praise my command of my fastball.”
The 1993 season is when Rowan finally beat Kernersville, its nemesis in the 1990s, to take the Area III championship.
“Kernersville’s John Hendricks (who starred at Wake Forest) beat us the first game, but when they brought him back on short rest later in the series, Coach led us know we must have them worried,” Moore said. “The second time, we knocked him around pretty good.”
Rowan’s overcame illness in the Western championship series with Hickory for another comeback.
“I remember playing second base and third base, so we had several guys out sick,” Moore said.
Rowan lost Game 3 when Hickory hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to take a 2-1 series lead.
After that heartbreaking loss, DeHart gave his best speech of the summer. That speech and Lee’s long relief outing in Game 5 — Rowan rallied from a 6-1 deficit to prevail 11-10 — turned the series.
Rowan swept four straight in the state-title series with Scotland County. Ofsanko’s catch in center field in Game 2 in Laurinburg — he snagged a drive over his shoulder as he smashed into a chain-link fence — is still talked about.
“After some of the series we’d had, that one was almost easy,” Moore said. “Their guys had football practice every morning, and then they were playing us at night.”
Moore’s vivid memory is being sent by DeHart to get loose in that series — and not being able to find any room at Newman Park to do so.
“The out-of-play lines were different then, and fans would put lawn chairs anywhere,” Moore said. “There was nowhere to warm up with that overflow crowd.”
Rowan would win twice in the Southeastern Regional in Hartselle, Ala., before ending its season 47-18.
Moore went on to a great career, as would his lefty brother Daniel, who followed him at North Rowan and Newman Park.
“I played and coached a long time,” said Moore, now a branch manager for F&M Bank. “But I’ve always treasured that summer as my best time in baseball. I thank Coach DeHart for that summer. He knew that team could do it.”