Legion baseball: So. Rowan 16, Mocksville 7
By Mike London
LANDIS — It’s not easy to get a save in a game your team wins by nine runs, but Dillon Atwell definitely earned his second one of the summer in South Rowan’s 16-7 victory against Mocksville.
On Saturday, South (7-12, 6-8) was clinging to an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth when the youthful Atwell was summoned to face Mocksville masher Joe Watson with the tying run at third base with one out.
The best pitch of a long night that included 18 walks, 11 wild pitches, three passed balls and four hit batsmen, was Atwell’s full-count breaking ball in the dirt that fooled and whiffed a swinging Watson.
“Joe had to be sitting on a fastball there, but we could have lived with walking him in that situation,” South coach Michael Lowman said. “Atwell made a pitch, and (catcher Joseph) Basinger made a good play to block that ball and make a tag.”
Atwell didn’t fool Connor Bodenhamer, but his smoking liner found the glove of left fielder Dylan Walker to end the threat.
“A missile,” Lowman said with a sigh of relief. “We were a little bit lucky.”
South used walks to built an 8-3 lead through four innings, but — as usual — it was hanging on for dear life in the late innings.
This time, however, South’s offense took the pressure off weary hurlers by sending 12 men to the plate in the bottom of the eighth and scoring eight times against tiring Mocksville reliever Zach Long, who had looked dominant in his first three innings of work.
Mocksville coach Charles Kurfees didn’t have many mound options. His first-place team (9-7, 8-3) arrived with just 11 in uniform.
“When we’ve got everybody, we’re as good as any team in this league,” Kurfees said. “But Legion baseball is about heart and desire and commitment, and sometimes we need more of that.”
Weston Smith’s whistling solo homer triggered the onslaught in the eighth, and Kyle Bridges capped it with an opposite-field double that chased home Parker Hubbard and Spencer Matlock.
South actually had three runs on the scoreboard before it managed its first base hit against Watson, a big right-hander. South got its first two runs in the second when Walker scored on a wild pitch and Basinger roared around behind him when the catcher’s throw deflected off a sliding Walker.
South’s first hit off Watson was a solo homer by Hogan in the third that gave veteran southpaw Jesse Park a 4-3 lead to protect.
“Joe was just wild enough that he was very hard to hit,” Hogan said. “But I was looking fastball and got a pretty good low fastball to hit.”
South accepted five walks in a four-run fourth to lead 8-3. Dylan Goodman had the key hit, one of his three.
Mocksville pulled within 8-6 in the seventh when Long’s two-run homer finally knocked out Park.
“My changeup was working, but my slider wasn’t,” Park said. “I just tried to keep the ball low, and my defense played great.”
Park’s biggest contribution was inducing two infield popups after Mocksville loaded the bases in the fifth.
Relievers Jordan Kennerly and Patrick Hampton got three key outs, and Lowman finally called on Atwell to escape that jam in the eighth.
South players celebrated by singing “Happy Birthday” to Lowman’s son, Colin, and the mood was upbeat.
“We’ve been playing a little tight,” Hogan said. “We loosed up some tonight.”
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