By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE ó Cy Young stayed consistent, Justin Mock stayed hot, Ross Steedley and Weston Church stayed back on ninth-inning curveballs, and Rowan County’s American Legion team stayed on top in the Southern Division of Area III.
Rowan survived Mocksville 10-5 at Rich Park on Sunday. Church singled in Justin Roland with a tiebreaking run in the ninth. Three batters later, Steedley belted a high hanger over the left-field fence for a grand slam that clinched victory.
Steedley had four hits for Rowan (14-1, 10-1), which won its eighth straight game. Church and Mock had three apiece.
Rowan started 15-1 in 2002 when it won the state championship, but coach Jim Gantt is taking things one day at a time.
“We’ve been really lucky so far,” he said. “It’s just kind of gone our way.”
A hot team, Mocksville (11-8, 6-5) erased deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 and nearly pulled off a stirring comeback.
“It’s always tough to come here,” winning pitcher Matt Hall said. “We blew a lead, and we really got challenged by them. But we came through when we had to.”
Both starting pitchers deserved to win.
Neither did.Mocksville lefty Tom Kuell pitched one of the better 14-hitters in Legion history.
With the help of two twin killings and gold-glove plays by third baseman Zach Howard, Kuell gave his team a chance.”Tom gave us strong work against a good-hitting team,” Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace said.
Young owns 17 career Legion victories ó only 16 players in the program’s history have won more ó and made a strong bid for No. 18.
He carried a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. But his infielders didn’t make plays they usually make, forcing him to throw extra pitches. Mocksville finally reached him for two runs in the seventh, one on Justin Moody’s RBI single after a lengthy battle with the Rowan ace.
“Cy wasn’t as sharp as he has been, and he was a little tired,” said Steedley, who made a half-dozen good blocks behind the plate. “But he always competes.”
Roland, Micah Jarrett and Corbin Shive had to hurry back from a gold-medal effort in the State Games, but Jarrett keyed Rowan’s three-run first with a two-run homer that just cleared the wall in left field.
Mock doubled and scored on Jason Ridenhour’s double-play grounder to make it 4-0 in the fourth. After Mocksville scored twice, hits by Steedley and Mock made it 5-2 in the eighth.
“We kept getting runners on but didn’t score often,” Gantt said. “Mocksville’s a good team. You let them hang around, they’re gonna make a run.”Mocksville did.
Rowan lefty Lee Dupre relieved Young and put out a fire in the seventh, but Mocksville scored three runs against Dupre and Hall in the eighth for the 5-5 tie. Heath Boyd lined a run-scoring double over the head of Rowan first baseman Trey Holmes. Brent Beam’s single to left knocked in two runs.
“Once we got Cy out of there, we felt pretty good,” Lovelace said. “But we still missed opportunity after opportunity all night long.”
A weary Roland doubled to start the Rowan ninth against hard-throwing Ryan Carter. Ridenhour’s flyball to right moved Roland to third, and Church’s hit through the left side put Rowan back on top.
Mocksville then made its first error all night on what should have been an inning-ending, double-play grounder off Holmes’ bat. After Jarrett was hit by a pitch, the bases were full for Steedley, who had already lined three solid opposite-field hits.
“I swung and missed at a fastball, then swung and missed at a curve and was in a hole,” Steedley said. “Then he hung one, and I got the bat on it.”
It was four quick runs.
“I knew that ball Ross hit was out,” Hall said. “Then I got kind of speechless.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.
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