Legion Baseball: Rowan 6, Mocksville 2
By David Shaw
Give Rowan the George H. W. Bush “Stay the Course” award.
The Southern Division’s top-seeded Legion team launched the get-down-to-business portion of its season Friday night by doing just that ó and gaining a 6-2 win over visiting Mocksville in Game 1 of its best-of-five, first-round playoff series.
“Nothing really stood out in this game,” winning pitcher Corbin Shive said after Rowan (17-4) fired the postseason’s first volley. “We did all the things we needed to win. We didn’t dominate by any means. We just did what we had to do.”
That included Shive. The tall right-hander was a clever escape artist for seven innings, inducing a couple of double plays and yielding seven hits. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 27 batters he faced, fanned seven and retired the side in order in the third and fifth innings.
“He hit his spots, his velocity was good and his curve ball was sharp,” said RC catcher Austin Shull. “It’s always nice to be behind the plate when Corbin’s pitching. One time through their lineup and we knew how to pitch to every single batter.”
Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace gave Shive his props after eighth-seeded Post 54 fell to 9-14.
“He came right at you,” Lovelace said. “He threw a lot of off-speed, and made big pitches when he had to. We had chances against him early, but you’ve got to be able to cash in.”
Instead, Rowan squirmed out of trouble in each of the first two innings when third-baseman Noah Holmes initiated double plays.
“We stayed cool and calm,” said Shull. “When they had runners on, we didn’t let nerves get to us.”
By the bottom of the third Rowan had carved out a 3-0 lead against losing pitcher Jake Koontz, the right-hander who checked RC on four hits in a 2-1 Mocksville victory June 13. This time Zack Smith delivered an RBI single, Holmes drew a bases-loaded walk and another run crossed on Philip Miclat’s groundout.
“We didn’t hit a lot, but it had everything to do with their pitcher,” said Rowan coach Jim Gantt. “He did the same thing he did to us the last time ó pitched, changed speeds. He’s a good pitcher.”
Rowan managed only eight hits, all against Koontz. The loudest came in the last of the fourth after Trey Holmes and Russell Michalec reached on errors. With none out, Smith muscled a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right-center field for a 6-2 Rowan lead.
“He threw me a middle-away, high fastball,” said Smith, now Rowan’s team leader with 32 RBIs. “I was just looking for something to drive, not trying to do anything too big. I just wanted to get a run in.”
Gantt watched Smith’s fifth homer from the first-base coach’s box.
“The pitch was up to him, he got a mistake and he didn’t miss it,” he said. “That’s what good hitters do.”
Lovelace was equally impressed. “Zack Smith hit a great pitch,” he said. “He took an inside-out swing and hit it out of the ballpark.”
Koontz walked 10 batters and didn’t receive enough defensive support to prevail.
“We inflicted some of our own wounds,” Lovelace said.
Post 54 scored both of its runs on one swing ó Jess Cartner’s two-out double that crashed off the left-field wall in the top of the third. Michalec appeared to have a bead on the drive, but he misjudged his proximity to the wall.
“That play’s a lot tougher to make than it looks,” said Shive. “You have to know where you are and where the wall is. He missed that one, but that’s a play he’ll make nine out of 10 times.”
Other than that, everything was hunky-dory for Shive and Rowan.
“I think we came in pretty confident,” Smith said. “And we haven’t lost any of it.”
NOTES: Mocksville’s Zack Russell-Myers was ejected after taking a called third strike in the top of the eighth. He is eligible to play in Game 2 tonight at Newman Park. … Probable starters are Rowan’s Billy Veal (3-0, 1.75 ERA) against Mocksville’s D.J. Webb (3-0, 4.90).