Legion Baseball: Rowan 9, Mooresville 5
By Mike London
MOORESVILLE ó Rowan County shortstop Justin Roland couldn’t decide which hurt more ó his gashed leg or the one he’d fouled a pitch off of. Both legs felt better than his right shoulder, which was supposed to pitch one inning Sunday but instead had to go three.
Rowan is battered, bruised and banged-up, but now it can rest for a few days. Behind two Micah Jarrett homers, it finished off a 3-0 second-round sweep of Mooresville on Tuesday in a game in which the 9 to 5 score was appropriate. It was work.
“We knew Mooresville would not die easy,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “That ninth inning everyone’s chomping at the bit for our guy (Billy Veal) to throw strikes, but he still had to work careful. If you go out there and start serving ’em up to Mooresville, they’ll hit a lot of balls in the parking lot.”
Veal, who followed Russell Michalec, Trey Holmes and Cody Laws to the mound, struck out Nathan Abraham, the tying run, with the bases loaded to end the series. Jon Crucitti, someone Rowan definitely didn’t want to see at the plate, was on deck when Veal broke off a beautiful 3-2 curveball to Abraham.
“That 3-2 curveball by Billy ó that took some guts,” Gantt said.
Second-seeded Rowan (26-8) beat Mooresville for the eighth straight time in a playoff series and for the 25th time in their last 27 playoff meetings.
Still, there was nothing easy about it. The teams followed Sunday’s classic 21-18 shootout and Monday’s bizarre 23-4 error-fest with a good old-fashioned baseball game.
Garrett Braun did everything he could for Mooresville. He was 4-for-4, including a second-inning homer that gave Mooresville a 1-0 edge ó its first and last lead of the series.
Mooresville (19-11) lost because it left 15 men on base.
“Scottie Williams gave us an opportunity to win, as he’s done all year,” Mooresville coach Josh Graham said. “But we didn’t get the breaks and we couldn’t get that big hit.”Michalec (4-2) worked into the sixth, despite allowing 12 hits, and Williams didn’t exit until after Zach Smith lined a pitch off his elbow in the seventh.
Smith’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth keyed a three-run inning for Rowan, but Brantley Horton’s two-run double tied it for the Moors at 3-3 in the bottom half.
Jarrett’s two-run homer in the fourth ó his first blast since June 8 ó handed Rowan a 5-3 lead in the fifth.
“The guys were heckling me a little bit about how long it had been,” said a smiling Jarrett, who is looking healthy, after struggling a bit with knee and hamstring injuries.
A spectacular catch by left fielder D.C. Cranford in the fifth helped Rowan hold a 5-4 lead going to the bottom of the sixth. That’s when Michalec departed after the Moors filled the bases with one out.
Trey Holmes relieved, and the first batter he faced was Crucitti, who already had three hits. Holmes got him to rap into a bang-bang double play.
“I threw him an outside fastball and got him to roll over it,” Holmes said. “Then the guys behind me made an unbelievable turn.”
Roland fielded the ball with his momentum going toward third, but his accurate throw gave second baseman Philip Miclat a chance to make an acrobatic turn. Michalec, who had switched places with Holmes at first base, made the stretch to finish the play.
“That play was the difference in the game,” Gantt said.
Jarrett ripped an opposite-field homer to right-center to lead off the seventh for a 6-4 lead. Michalec’s sac fly and Austin Shull’s RBI double made it 8-4, and the suddenly powerful Miclat’s wicked, line-drive homer in the eighth gave Rowan a 9-4 cushion.
After Laws pitched a strong eighth, Veal took the ball. He made good pitches, but one walk and three singles later, it was 9-5, still with only one out, and the pressure was on. But Veal handled it, striking out Joe Manser on a lively fastball before he got Abraham.
“Most of the balls Mooresville hit hard tonight were on good pitches,” Shull said. “Our pitchers did a great job. They got all the big outs.”