Legion baseball: Rowan 9, Mooresville 3
By David Shaw
MOORESVILLE — The PA announcer wasn’t the only one who had a rough night Friday at Mooresville High School.
While players were incorrectly identified and names mispronounced, the Post 537 Legends committed eight errors, yielded three home runs — including Ashton Fleming’s first grand slam since Little League — and were steamrolled 9-3 by visiting Rowan County.
“I know, I know,” winning pitcher Zach Simpson said with a smile after Rowan (9-2, 6-1) won its sixth straight game. “The announcer, he was calling me Taylor Garczynski all night.”
Mooresville assistant coach Jeff Nanney, subbing for head coach Jeff Burchett, had it right from start to finish.
“Simpson was in control the whole game,” he said. “He knew he had us.”
Mooresville (1-4, 1-4) was minus the services of Burchett and a couple of starters — center-fielder Ryan Brennan and second-baseman Joe Cobb. Each was participating in the State Games in Raleigh. Assistant coach Johnny Meadows’ cut-and-paste lineup included starting pitcher Wesley Ludwig — a rising sophomore who made his first Legion appearance — and DH Brandon Moore, promoted earlier in the day from Mooresville’s Junior Legion team.
“I know they were shorthanded,” said RC coach Jim Gantt. “But we got people on base and hit home runs. We hit it when we had to.”
Nathan Fulbright had three of Rowan’s seven hits, including a second-inning homer that opened the scoring. He hoisted a 1-1 pitch from Ludwig over the fence in right-center field.
“He started me off with an off-speed curveball,” Fulbright said, providing a catcher’s insight. “So I figured he’d have to come back with a fastball and I just put a good swing on it.”
An inning later Andy Austin reached on an error and teammate Luke Thomas crunched a two-run home run to right, giving the guests a 3-0 lead.
“We hit three home runs,” Gantt said, “but Thomas hit his like it was meant to. He looked like he knew what he was doing, driving it that way. It wasn’t an accident.”
Rowan extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth. Mooresville’s makeshift infield looked like an Ed Sullivan juggling act as Austin, Garczynski and Avery Rogers reached on muffed grounders. One run scored on a Thomas groundout and another when Fleming was hit with an 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded.
The game’s loudest swing came after Ludwig had been chased and righthander Chris Blocher had taken the mound. Fulbright, Garczynski and Rogers were all aboard in the seventh when Fleming lofted a towering fly ball that crashed-landed just over the right-field fence.
“I really didn’t think it was going out,” Fleming said after his five-RBI night. “I thought it was going to hang up there for the right-fielder.”
In the meantime, left-hander Simpson was magnificent for Rowan. For seven innings his mid-80’s fastball kicked like a 12-gauge and his sharp-bending curve was suitable for framing.
“I gotta give credit to Nathan Fulbright,” he said after fanning 12 batters and walking none. “He called a great game. I hardly disagreed with anything he asked for all night.”
Simpson (3-0, 1.06 ERA) has yet to issue a walk in 17 innings this season. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 22 men he faced and retired 13 of 14 batters during one mid-game stretch. Relievers Rogers and Will Johnson combined for five more strikeouts in the final two innings.
“It’s not something you can rely on, but it sure helps when it happens,” Fulbright said. “And with Zach, there’s not much you can say other than ‘Lights Out.’”
NOTES: Mooresville’s three runs came on one swing — Moore’s eighth-inning homer against Rogers. … Simpson’s freshman year at Brevard College was cut short when he suffered a pulled muscle in his left elbow. He received a medical redshirt. … Righthander Thomas Allen (1-0, 0.75 ERA) will start for Rowan tonight at South Rowan.