Legion Baseball: Mooresville 14, South Rowan 7: South swept, season ends
By David Shaw
LANDIS ó Breaking up is hard to do, especially the way South Rowan’s American Legion baseball team did it Saturday night.
Facing third-and-long, Post 185/146 launched a Hail Mary in Game 3 of its second-round series with Mooresville, only to watch its season fall incomplete.
“We expected to at least win a game,” outfielder Caleb Shore said after host South dropped a 14-7 decision was swept out of the playoffs. “It’s disappointing that it ends like this. Not to take anything away from Mooresville, but we underplayed this series.”
South clocked out with a 17-9 record, ending a season that began with high hopes and spiraled into despair this past week. Mooresville used five home runs ó including two apiece by Billy Nantz and Dylan West ó to clinch the series. Post 66, now 15-8, earned a third-round matchup with Randolph County, beginning Tuesday.
“We thought we’d go a lot further than the second round,” said SR infielder Maverick Miles. “We had a lot of college freshman coming back and they were all good ballplayers. We just didn’t catch any breaks, ever, this whole series. It’s a heartbreaker.”
No one hurt more than right-hander Matt Ingold, a surprise pick as South’s starting pitcher with the season on the line. He’d made only one previous start this summer. He lasted only 21/3 innings and was hit for five runs on five hits.
“It was either going to be Matt or Cameron Park,” said SR coach Michael Lowman. “Matt came to me today and said he wanted the ball ó and I haven’t had a pitcher tell me that in a while.”
It was a decision based on both substance and sentiment. Ingold entered the game with a 2-0 record, a 2.25 ERA and nine strikeouts in eight innings of work.
“He’s been here for four years and done everything we’ve asked him to,” Lowman added. “Today he asked for the ball and I thought I should give it to him. I thought he gave us the best chance to win.”
Ingold yielded a three-run homer to Nantz in the first inning and solo blasts to Nantz and West in the third, when South fell behind 5-1.
“I had no command of my fastball,” Ingold explained afterward. “And if you don’t command your fastball against these guys, they’re gonna sit back and wait for a pitch to hit.”
South rallied to tie the score 5-5 in the bottom of the third, thanks to Brett Huffman’s two-out, two-run single, Julio Zubillaga’s RBI hit and a run-scoring wild pitch by Mooresville starter Ian Walters.
“We had a four-run inning to tie it,” said Ingold. “But they grabbed the momentum right back and we never got it again.”
South never led in the entire series and fell behind for good when Park surrendered an RBI-single to Josh Clark in the fifth and another run crossed on an error. Then, in the top of the sixth, Brantley Horton pumped a two-run homer off South reliever Walker Smith that made it 9-5.
“That’s when we felt like we had ’em,” said winning coach Josh Graham. “We knew they were gonna keep hitting, but at that point you could see their heads drop.”
And with it, so did South’s hope of rallying back in a series that felt like a treadmill to nowhere.
“We didn’t put any pressure on them,” Lowman said. “They never had to play from behind. That allowed their pitchers to pound the strike zone and come after us. They were just better.”
NOTES: Huffman had three hits and reached base five times for South. … Teammate Ryan Bostian went 7-for-15 in the series while Miles was 5-for-13, closing the season with a team-best .422 batting average.