Legion Baseball Playoffs: Mocksville 5, Rowan 3: Rowan trails series 2-0

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2012

By David Shaw
SALISBURY — It is officially time to panic.
Rowan County’s American Legion baseball season isn’t kaput just yet, but there are vultures circling overhead.
“It feels awful, but what can we do?” losing pitcher Avery Rogers said Tuesday night at Newman Park, where RC stumbled 5-3 against Mocksville and fell behind two-games-to-none in its best-of-five, second-round series. “All we can do is keep playing and hope we can start winning.”
Game 3 is scheduled tonight at Mocksville’s Rich Park, where the Southern Division regular season champion can end Rowan’s season.
“We’re just not playing like we should be,” infielder Alex Morgan said after Rowan (15-17) was checked on two hits. “Now we’ve got to come out and hit and play like we want to win.”
They had their chances against Post 54 (24-6), but stranded baserunners in scoring position in four of the first five innings. Winning pitcher Corey Randall was effectively wild — blending a garden-variety fastball with a butterfly changeup that had Rowan’s hitters out in front and swinging at air.
“He used the curveball a little bit but he had a great changeup,” RC coach Jim Gantt said. “He overmatched our hitters. If we hit it, we hit it in the air. And when we do that, they’re gonna catch it because we can’t hit it far enough. We needed to have better approaches.”
Whatever Randall was doing, it worked. He struck out nine, walked six and and carried a one-hit shutout into the bottom of the ninth inning. Before Nathan Fulbright coaxed a leadoff walk in the final frame, Randall had retired 13 of the last 14 Rowan batters.
“Corey had a one-hitter and was pitching really well,” said winning coach Charles Kurfees. “But we probably stayed with him too long. In the end, we feel lucky to get out of here alive. It’s a tough place to play. We’re just trying to take the series out of their hands.”
Rowan tried to take it back with a ninth-inning comeback. It ended a streak of more than 26 consecutive scoreless innings against Mocksville when pinch-hitter Greg Tonnesen steered a run-scoring groundball single into right field with one away.
“We finally put a rally together but came up just short,” said Fulbright, who delivered a fourth-inning double for the game’s only extra-base hit. “When you’re down five runs you need time to chip away. We didn’t have that. We were trying to get it all back at once, and that’s tough to do.”
Rogers pitched out of a first-inning jam when Rowan turned a 4-6-3 double play with two men aboard. He had retired 14 of 15 when Mocksville’s Connor Bodenhamer, Randall and Ryan Foster knocked successive base hits in the top of the sixth. Two runs scored on Foster’s grounder into left when outfielder Brian Bauk overthrew his cutoff man and the ball skipped past Fulbright and Rogers and into a dead-ball territory behind the plate.
“It was bad break when Bauk threw it wild,” Rogers said after fanning nine and walking two in eight innings of work. “But that was actually a bad pitch. We had thrown him four or five curveballs that he didn’t even swing at. Then I came back with a high fastball, right where he wanted it.”
Mocksville nourished its lead an inning later when Will Beeson scored on a wild pitch. Dakota Brown relieved for Rowan in the top of the ninth and yielded two more runs. Rowan had the potential tying run at the plate when fireman Josh Faircloth induced Will Sapp’s game-ending groundout.
Time is no longer Rowan’s friend — and Gantt knows it. He’ll hand the ball to right-hander Jared Mathis (2-2, 3.51 ERA) tonight.
“We just gotta try to win tomorrow and get back here the next night,” he said.
Fulbright, for one, isn’t abandoning ship.
“We’re a team that never gives up,” he said. “We’re not in panic mode. It’s just time to play better.”