Legion Baseball: Rowan 7, Mocksville 6
By Mike London
Rowan County’s Trey Holmes continued his hitting rampage, and undefeated Forrest Buchanan pitched three shutout innings to turn the tide in a 7-6 victory against Mocksville at Newman Park.
Top-seeded Rowan won its eighth straight and seized a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five, first-round series.
Saturday’s game came down to the last swing. With fireworks exploding beyond the outfield fences, Rowan’s Preston Troutman buzzed a high, 3-2 fastball past Tyler King to end it with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first.
“I just trusted in what my catcher (Matt Miller) called,” Troutman said. “That last pitch, all I’m trying to do is throw a strike. It was up, out of the zone a little bit, but I got the strikeout. I’ve closed out a couple games, but being a playoff game this one meant a whole lot more.”
Mocksville (9-15) will try to stay alive tonight at Rich Park, but momentum and history aren’t on the side of the No. 8 seed. Rowan has won 12 straight playoff series against its neighbors, including one in 2008.
Mocksville used sharp pitching by D.J. Webb and a three-run homer by Jess Cartner to build a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning but couldn’t hold it.
“We pitched our rear ends off, but we just hand-wrapped this one for Rowan,” Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace said. “We had chances and didn’t cash in. But when we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”
Webb and reliever Zack Russell-Myers limited Rowan to 10 hits, including three by Holmes. Holmes owns a 12-game hitting streak and has multiple hits in his last nine.
In his eight games since being moved to the leadoff spot, Holmes has batted .667 (22-for-33) with 19 runs and 14 RBIs. He hit the 17th homer of his career ó tying Cal Hayes Jr. for sixth all-time ó on Webb’s first pitch. The drive cleared the wall in center field and kept soaring.
“I haven’t seen many fastballs lately, but I got one there on the first pitch and put a good swing on it,” Holmes said. “After that, Webb put it in cruise and wouldn’t let us get anything big going.”
Webb mowed down Rowan hitters in the second, third and fourth.
“He was changing speeds on us and our hitters were spinning off balls,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Next thing you know we’re way down.”
Cartner’s three-run homer to right field off Rowan starter Billy Veal with two out in the fifth gave Mocksville a 5-1 lead. That blast came moments after Rowan failed to turn a double play that would’ve ended the inning.
“It didn’t look great then, but we knew if we just kept fighting to get people on base we could make things happen,” Holmes said.
An error opened the door for Rowan in the fifth. Miller’s RBI double helped Rowan get within 5-3.
Then Buchanan (6-0) took over. He put zeroes on the board in the sixth, seventh and eighth, facing just nine batters.
“Forrest was the difference in this game,” Gantt said.
Troutman had an amazing top of the sixth at shortstop, with two running catches and a leaping catch. Momentum carried over to the bottom of the sixth, and Rowan scored four times.
Corbin Shive followed Jon Crucitti’s leadoff single with an RBI double. Then Noah Holmes crashed a run-scoring triple off the center-field wall for a 5-5 tie. Holmes dashed home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. The insurance run Troutman scored on a two-out error turned out to be pivotal.
When Ryan Carter opened the Mocksville ninth with a booming double, Gantt turned to Troutman. A walk and Zeb Cope’s RBI single made things more than interesting, but Troutman struck out the side to preserve the win.
“It was a tough game because Mocksville made a lot of plays on balls that usually fall in for us,” Gantt in. “King made a bunch of good plays for them at second base.”