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Legion Baseball: Rowan 17, Mocksville 6; Rowan sweeps

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
MOCKSVILLE ó Outfielders Russell Michalec, Jon Crucitti and Zach Smith spent most of their time chasing flyballs to the warning track, but Rowan County pitcher Nick Smith got the job done in a 17-6 victory at Mocksville’s Rich Park.
Nick Smith, who was 0-3 as a senior at North Rowan in 2008, is 5-0 this summer.
“Nick was the key to the game early because he got out of jams and stayed away from the big inning,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “He got fatigued as the game wore on. The humidity got to him and our catcher (Matt Miller) a little bit.”
Top-seeded Rowan pounded out 18 hits to sweep a first-round series and will return to playoff action at Newman Park on Wednesday against Stanly or Lexington.
Corbin Shive led Rowan’s offensive onslaught with four hits, including his team-leading eighth home run. Crucitti, Michalec and Noah Holmes had three hits apiece.
“I was leading off a lot of innings and saw a lot of good pitches to hit,” Shive said. “I was just trying to punch balls through the right side and things worked out. It’s nice to sweep. It gives the pitchers a little rest.”
Rowan (19-4) won its ninth straight and won its 13th consecutive playoff series from Mocksville. Trey Holmes kept his 13-game hitting streak alive with a single on his sixth and final plate appearance.
The only negative for Rowan was an injury to relief pitcher Alex Litaker. Litaker was struck in the nose by Miller’s throw when the hurler covered home on a passed ball. Litaker’s vision was obscured by the runner crossing the plate. He took the throw flush in the face and was down at least 10 minutes.
Still, it was mostly smooth sailing, even though No. 8 seed Mocksville (9-16) scored single runs in the first and second innings.
“I was a little shaky early, didn’t have my best stuff,” Nick Smith said. “I gave up a couple of leadoff walks and they scored. I can’t keep doing that.”
Rowan’s seven-run fourth inning against Mocksville starter Ryan Carter proved decisive. Shive started it with a single to right. After Noah Holmes slapped a single, Miller was grazed by an 0-2 pitch to fill the bases.
Preston Troutman’s two-run single put Rowan ahead 3-2 before Ethan Fisher’s sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Trey Holmes reloaded the bases. Michalec drew a walk to force home a run. Zach Smith blistered a two-run single that had chalk flying down the left-field line. Crucitti doubled home a run. Then Shive capped the inning with a sac fly for a 9-2 lead.
“Most games the momentum swings several times, but in this one it just swung one good time in that big inning,” Crucitti said. “Nick stopped the bleeding for us on the mound, and momentum stayed on our side the rest of the night.”
It could have been a 10-run rule game, but Mocksville wouldn’t go quietly, fighting on each at-bat against relievers Litaker, Parker Gobbel and Cody Laws. Laws nailed down the last six outs.
Even after Rowan tacked on five runs in the ninth, Mocksville added two in the bottom half to make it a real marathon.
“We were coming off a heartbreaker in Game 2, but we battled hard,” Mocksville coach Mike Lovelace said. “Rowan can swing the bats as well as anyone. Our guys threw some quality pitches that Rowan still got hits on, and we hit a lot of flyballs to the warning track.”

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