Legion playoffs: Brown leads Rowan past Mocksville in Game 1
By Mike London
Tanner Brown went a long time between victories, but his luck and confidence have turned around.
Brown pitched seven swift innings with zero earned runs and zero walks to lead Rowan County to a 6-3 victory over Mocksville in the opening game of a best-of-five playoff series at Newman Park on Monday.
“I hit spots and had everything working,” said Brown, who struck out nine. “I was able to get ahead and get them to chase some pitches out of the zone for strikeouts.”
Brown was good enough that Mocksville’s all-star catcher Chris Kinard struck out four times. Kinard can go a month without four Ks.
“Tanner worked the strike zone well, set up their hitters well,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “He’s not afraid to throw a strike, and he’s got a pretty good idea on every pitch.”
Brown, whose senior season at North Rowan in 2007 was wrecked by a broken hand, was 0-5 as a freshman at Wilkes Community College this year, but he’s 6-1 this summer and has emerged as Rowan’s surprise ace. Brown has been so sharp that Game 1 was almost a must-win for Rowan.
“If we didn’t win Tanner’s start at home our backs would’ve been against the wall for real,” Gantt said.
Brown could have thrown seven shutout frames, but errors helped Mocksville score single runs in the second and fourth. Matt Leonard had two RBIs while Justin Kidd, a former West Rowan standout, had three hits for Mocksville.
Mocksville right-hander Zack Russell-Myers handled the bottom of Rowan’s lineup but not the top. No. 2 hitter Philip Miclat went 3-for-3 and scored three runs.
“Batting between Justin (Roland) and Trey (Holmes) is a good place to hit,” Miclat said. “I didn’t see a slider all night. Just fastballs and changeups.”
Holmes knocked in runs in each of his first three trips to the plate with a single, a sacrifice fly and a double. Roland led off and whacked his 47th career double to tie Cal Hayes Jr. for Rowan’s all-time record. He scored twice.
“We were all aggressive at the plate and came out swinging,” Roland said. “I was in a slump for a while, so it feels great to be hitting again.”
After Brown mowed down sixth-seeded Mocksville to start the game, No. 3 Rowan (21-8) took charge in the bottom of the first. Roland, Miclat and Holmes ripped hits for a 1-0 lead. After Micah Jarrett hit into a double play, Noah Holmes singled for a 2-0 lead.
Hits by Roland and Miclat, Trey Holmes’ sac fly and Noah Holmes’ second two-out RBI single made it 4-1 in the third, and Brown was on his way. He practiced damage control early and escaped jams unscathed in the sixth and seventh.
“Tanner pounded the strike zone and was able to bear down whenever we had opportunities,” Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace said. “We hit a lot of flyballs and just couldn’t get that big hit.”
Matt Hall relieved Brown to start the eighth and got four outs. When Hall ran into trouble in the ninth, Roland took the mound for his second save. He skied to stab a groundball up the middle, then ended the game with a strikeout.
“Roland’s one of those guys that can turn it up a notch when he needs to,” Gantt said.
Game 2 is at Rich Park tonight. Zack Simpson will pitch for Rowan. Corey Norman will hurl for Mocksville, which is 0-11 lifetime in playoff series against Rowan.