Rowan 1, Mocksville 0
By Bret Strelow
MOCKSVILLE ó Five Rowan County pitchers held Mocksville-Davie scoreless.
One Rowan batter ó an unlikely one at that ó supplied the only offense.
Zack Simpson and four relievers combined on a four-hit shutout to lift Rowan to a 1-0 win against Mocksville at Rich Park on Tuesday. Philip Miclat ó a 5-foot-7, 145-pound infielder ó hit a fence-clearing homer in a live game for the first time in his baseball career, and Rowan claimed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five playoff series because the third-inning run held up.
“I didn’t think it would happen, didn’t think we’d see it,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said before adding with a laugh, “and a home run by Philip Miclat was the only run.”
Rowan (22-8) hadn’t collected a 1-0 victory since 1996, when Russell Holshouser allowed four hits and struck out 13 hitters in nine innings against Stanly County. John McDaniel helped Mocksville win a similar game against South Rowan last summer.
Mocksville starter Corey Norman, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first, limited Rowan to six hits in eight innings.
Norman threw a 3-1 fastball to Miclat with one away in the third, and Miclat pulled the pitch. The ball barely cleared the left-field fence, which sits 310 feet from home plate.
“It was just relief,” Miclat said. “I always joke around with my teammates saying I’m going to hit a home run every at-bat, and it never happens. When I actually hit it, it was joy. It was hard work that actually paid off.”
The solo shot was the only extra-base hit from either side.
Matt Hall replaced Simpson after 52/3 innings, and Cody Laws got the first batter in Mocksville’s half of the eighth to fly out to deep center. Trey Holmes took over with two left-handed hitters coming up, and he retired both. Justin Roland entered in the ninth and picked up a save for the second straight night.
Zack Russell-Myers led off with a single, and Clint Howell flied out. Matt Leonard was behind 0-2 when Roland picked off Russell-Myers, and the next pitch was a called third strike.
“I’ve heard a guy say, ‘You don’t go to the bullpen and ask for credentials. You just go to the bullpen,’ ” Gantt said. “We ran the guys out there, explained to them what their job was, and that’s exactly what they did. Cody, he knew he was in there to get that guy, and he came off the mound before the ball got back in the infield.”
Simpson held Mocksville (14-14) hitless for 4 1/3 innings ó Leonard reached on a check-swing infield single in the fifth.
Simpson walked the first batter he faced and fell behind 2-0 to the next hitter. Pitching coach Zach Snyder visited the mound, and Simpson’s control improved.
Simpson needed 64 pitches, including 41 strikes, to navigate through the first five innings.
“(Snyder) told me just to calm down because I was a little nervous out there,” Simpson said. “It just took a little while to get used to that mound, but after I started letting my defense work, it was good.”
Simpson, a lefty, retired the next two hitters after Leonard’s one-out single in the fifth and recorded an out in the sixth before running into trouble.
Simpson issued a walk, allowed a single to left-handed hitting Seth Miller and departed after Justin Kidd, another lefty batter, reached on a fielder’s choice that put runners at the corners.
“With his age, we just didn’t want to leave him out there and let the wheels fall off because he had gotten us so far into the game and done such a good job,” Gantt said. “We had a more experienced guy with a right-hander coming up.”
Russell-Myers flied out to deep right against Hall, who allowed the first two batters in the seventh to reach. A popped-up bunt produced the first out, and runners were at the corners with two away. Heath Boyd drilled a long shot to left, and outfielder Billy Veal pressed one hand against the fence as he raised his glove above his head to make the catch.
Timely hitting again eluded Mocksville, which lost 6-3 in the series opener.
“We’ve gotten two great pitching performances against a great hitting team,” Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace said. “It’s disappointing to waste two great efforts like we’ve had.
“I thought this was going to be a slugfest series, and it was a 1-0 game. I guess anything can happen, and that’s why they call it baseball.”
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