Legion baseball: Mocksville 1, Rowan 0
By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE — When Rowan County’s Ashton Fleming singled and Nathan Fulbright walked to start the ninth inning, Mocksville fans had every reason to start thinking, “Well, here we go again.”
But Mocksville pitcher Ryan Foster is a talented teenager unburdened by the weight of history. Foster worked out of a jam Mocksville hasn’t often gotten out of, and he beat Rowan 1-0 in Monday’s dramatic playoff opener at Rich Park.
Mocksville had won just six of 56 playoff meetings with Rowan prior to Foster’s brilliant outing.
“We’ve read and heard about the history, but it doesn’t matter to us much,” Mocksville catcher Will Beeson said. “All we’re worried about is trying to get to the next round.”
Beeson offered a perfect answer because Mocksville hasn’t beaten anyone lately in the postseason, much less Rowan. When Mocksville (23-6) beat Concord last week, it marked the first time Mocksville had survived a playoff series since 2004.
But this Mocksville team is different and Foster, who outdueled Rowan’s Brian Bauk, is a lot different. Mocksville’s latest victory was its 14th in a row, the program’s best streak since the summer of 1993.
Foster (6-0) fanned eight and walked two. He allowed five singles but three were infield hits. He ran his streak of scoreless innings to 32.
“They won our division, and you don’t ever win a division with just one pitcher,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Still, we’re looking forward to seeing someone else — anyone else. We know Foster’s good.”
Bauk, on the short end of a 1-0 score for the second time this summer, nearly matched Foster, but with one out in the fourth, Corey Randall, Foster and Jacob Walker banged singles for the game’s only run.
“Bauk had good velocity,” Beeson said. “His changeup and curve kept us off-balance, and his fastball was really cutting inside on us.”
Foster’s base hit hooked sharply to right-center and looked like a double, but Rowan center fielder Will Sapp made a terrific play to hold the runners at first and second. But Walker’s grounder through the left side followed, and, Mocksville coach Charles Kurfees waved Randall home without hesitation. He scored easily.
Fifth-seeded Rowan (15-16) had two men on in the third, but Foster struck out Fleming. Rowan had a runner at third in the fifth, but Foster struck out Sapp to end the threat.
“Foster’s got icewater in his veins,” Kurfees said. “It was the Ryan Foster Show.”
Foster made a great play on a bunt by Bauk in the sixth, and center fielder Connor Bodenhamer helped him out with a tumbling catch of a drive off Sapp’s bat in the eighth.
“My stuff wasn’t as electric as the last time I pitched against Rowan (a 15-strikeout shutout), but I always go out there to compete,” Foster said.
No question. He showed his moxie in that tense ninth with two on and none out.
“I’m thinking double steal or bunt — a lot goes through your mind,” Kurfees said.
Jared Mathis didn’t bunt because he got into favorable hitting counts and he has the most power on Rowan’s team, but Foster struck him out.
Alex Morgan did bunt but Mocksville executed, and there were runners at second and third with two out.
With a 2-2 count on Chase Hathcock, Beeson visited the mound.
“Ryan shook me off twice, because he wanted to throw another curve,” Beeson said. “He told me to give him a target, and he’d fit it in there.”
Foster broke off a curve that snapped to the inside corner, and the game was over.
Hard rain followed barely two minutes later — maybe a symbol of Mocksville finally washing away 30 years of frustration against Rowan.