Legion Baseball: South Rowan 5, Mocksville 4

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2008

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com.MOCKSVILLE ó How did South Rowan’s American Legion baseball team spell R-E-L-I-E-F on Saturday night?
Start with a change-of-pace left-hander named P-A-R-K. Add two shutout innings by cool-headed S-N-O-W. And wrap it all up with an amazing, game-ending catch by a right fielder aptly known as W-R-I-G-H-T.
It added up to a 5-4 test-of-nerves victory at Mocksville.
“We had to have every bit of it,” winning coach David Wright said after South (11-7, 7-4 Southern Division) won its second straight. “We’re at the point where we’ve got to get five or six innings out of our starters and the middle guys have got to come in and give us a chance to win ballgames. Tonight they did.”
After South’s hard-throwing starting pitcher Randy Shepherd fell behind 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth, southpaw Cameron Park smoothed the edges with 22/3 innings of hitless relief. He teased more than he tortured, escaping a one-out jam in the fifth before retiring six of the next eight batters he faced.
“I was ready to come in and shut the door,” said Park, the winning pitcher. “Down 4-2 and we end up winning ó that’s huge. Now we’ve got some momentum going.”
If they had awarded a game MVP, it would have gone to SR’s Walker Snow. Batting out of the No. 7 slot in the lineup, he stroked a two-run double off Mocksville starter Corey Norman that tied the score in the top of the sixth.
“It was 3-and-1 so I knew he had to throw me something decent,” Snow said. “I was looking for my pitch and got it ó a fastball. At that point I thought we had a real good chance to win this game.”
Two innings later, batting against Post 54 reliever Justin Kidd, Snow made good on his prediction. This time he steered a one-out, ground-ball single into center field that delivered Caleb Shore with the go-ahead run.
“Just trying to put the ball in play,” he said. “Just trying to do my job.”
Snow completed the job ó and earned his fourth save ó by retiring Mocksville (10-9, 6-7) in order in the eighth. Then after Heath Boyd coaxed a two-out walk in the last of the ninth, putting the potential tying run aboard, South’s Zach Wright made a game-ending save. And it was one any evangelist would gladly sell his soul for.
“That was unbelievable,” said Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace. “The kid made a whale of a play.”
The batter was Mocksville’s Chris Kinard ó a .338 hitter entering play ó and he drilled a screeching line drive toward the right-field line. Wright got a quick jump and went horizontal to make a sprawling, back-handed grab on a ball that had three-base-hit stamped all over it.
“With two outs I was just gonna try to hustle and make any play that came my way,” Wright said after being mobbed by his teammates. “I saw it all the way, up until the last second when I dove. I didn’t actually see it go in my glove, but I felt it, and was hoping it was in there. I guess I saw it enough to make the catch.”
And Kinard saw enough to slam his helmet to the ground midway between first and second base.
“With the game on the line,” said Lovelace, “he’s the guy I wanted at the plate. He understands the strike zone. You can watch him in batting practice and know that.”
School may be out for South and its spelling bee champions, but Wright found a dramatic way to earn some extra credit.
“It was a great play,” the other Wright said afterward. “And you’ve got to have some of those when you’re playing tight ballgames against good teams.”

NOTES: South’s first run scored on Matt Ingold’s third-inning squeeze and its second crossed on a two-out single by Maverick Miles in the fifth. … Shepherd pitched a 1-2-3 first inning but struggled thereafter. Part of the problem was a new pair of spikes he was breaking in. … South, now third in the league standings, hosts Kannapolis tonight.