Legion Baseball: Mooresville Legends 4, Rowan 2

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 22, 2012

By David Shaw
MOORESVILLE — Rowan County’s Legion baseball team had a chance to pull a few dents out of its car wreck of a month Friday night.
Instead, it squandered a mid-game lead and veered farther off course in the Southern Division standings.
“We had our hopes up,” catcher Nathan Fulbright said after Rowan dropped a 4-2 decision to the host Mooresville Legends. “We can stay in the game with anybody. We just can’t close them out.”
Rowan (9-13, 6-8) has endured a June swoon, winning just five of 16 outings. It remains tied for fifth place with four division games remaining.
“Well, it hasn’t been easy all year,” said RC coach Jim Gantt. “I don’t think there’s any reason to be alarmed about it. We’ve been in every game. We just….”
Gantt didn’t finish his sentence, but the numbers don’t lie. Rowan finished a close second again last night when Mooresville’s Joe Cobb cracked a decisive three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Left-fielder Brian Bauk made a terrific attempt to reel in the catch-of-the-day, but his effort fell short and the ball cleared the fence in left-center.
“Bauk was within two feet of making that play,” winning coach Johnny Meadows said after Post 537 (10-4, 9-4) secured a playoff berth. “They say it’s a game of inches. It might have been a game of feet tonight. That one swing, that one play, that was the ballgame.”
It tarnished an otherwise solid performance by Rowan righthander Jared Mathis. He struck out seven, induced eight groundouts and threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 30 batters he faced.
“Jared was pitching great,” said Rowan center fielder Will Sapp. “We were one pitch away tonight. I believe that if (Cobb) doesn’t hit that pitch, we win 2-1.”
That’s the margin Rowan clung to after Chance Bowden’s run-scoring single in the top of the fourth and Fulbright’s sacrifice fly an inning later. The Mooresville fifth began when Mathis misplayed Tyler Perkins’ leadoff bunt for an error. He walked the next batter before fanning winning pitcher Ryan Brennan. Mathis nearly escaped the jam when Andrew Meadows grounded to second baseman Chase Hathcock, but Rowan failed to turn a double play, extending the inning.
“A misplayed bunt, then we didn’t turn a double play and an 0-2 fastball in,” Gantt said. “That was the game.”
Cobb — Mooresville’s cleanup hitter who had an otherwise quiet night — was like the guy at the toll booth. He made Rowan pay, launching a flat heater into the balmy night sky.
“We just didn’t catch a break there,” said Fulbright. “If that ball runs like his fastball usually does, it’s a different story.”
Brennan (2-0 with five saves) provided some closure for Mooresville with 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He struck out seven, walked none and benefited from a couple highlight-reel defensive plays in the top of the ninth.
“The defense picked me up,” he beamed afterward. “They hit some balls real hard, some real line shots. But our guys were there.”
Gantt couldn’t help but notice, referencing a 120-foot Mooresville blooper that fell for a hit and another bunt single. But to his credit, he offered no excuses.
“They were better than us tonight,” he said. “That’s why they won.”

NOTES: Infielder Ashton Fleming had two of Rowan’s seven hits. Sapp delivered a fifth-inning double for RC’s only extra-base hit. … Ethan Free (1-3, 4.86 ERA) starts tonight’s home game against Statesville.