Legion Baseball Playoffs: Rowan 3, Mocksville 2
By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE — The tension was so thick at Rich Park on Sunday night that Wayne Gretzky could’ve skated on it.
Rowan County came through in a pressure cooker, beating Mocksville 3-2. That was the finally tally not only in Game 5, but for a memorable second-round series that ended with Rowan (18-17) inching above the .500 mark for the first time since June 8.
Mocksville didn’t lose two games in a row the entire regular season, but Rowan took Games 3,4 and 5 in the series to escape a 2-0 hole.
“This was all about being able to execute in tough situations without letting your emotions get the best of you,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said.
Brian Bauk, who had struggled as the starting pitcher Saturday, saved the series finale for Avery Rogers by striking out the side in the ninth with the tying run on base. Bauk also blistered the hits that produced Rowan’s first and last runs.
“We won because we worked so hard the last three games it was just amazing,” Bauk said. “We earned it. We fought for it. We deserved it.”
It was an exciting season for Mocksville (24-9), but it was the 16th summer in 30 years to end against Rowan. This was the first time Mocksville, which was missing two key players, was able to push Rowan to the brink of elimination.
“Like I’ve said all along, Rowan County has a great program and gets tremendous dedication and commitment from all their kids,” Mocksville coach Charles Kurfees said. “We had our chances tonight to beat them, but we just didn’t cash those chances in.”
Mocksville got another super start from Ryan Foster, who allowed one unearned run and three hits in his six innings, but it was Rowan’s pitching staff that ruled the series.
“Our pitchers did a good job, and our catchers (Nathan Fulbright and Bryson Prugh) called good games,” Gantt said. “To hold that team to two runs is unbelievable. They’ve got scary hitters with a lot of power.”
Two key stats: Mocksville left 42 men on base in the series and batted .196 as a team.
“Our pitchers executed,” Fulbright said. “We learned from each at-bat and applied it to the next one. When pitchers execute, that’s when the wins start to come.”
Rogers settled down after a shaky, wild second inning in which he walked one and hit two but still wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam.
“I was kind of going crazy — I was stepping in a hole on my follow through and the ball was sailing on me,” Rogers said. “I just took me a while to calm down, and once we scored a run it was a big lift.”
Karch Arey tripled to lead off the Mocksville first, a drive that Rogers felt should’ve been ruled foul. Arey scored on a wild pitch, and Foster had a 1-0 lead.
Foster had a streak of 34 straight scoreless innings stopped in the third when Will Sapp reached on an error, stole second and scored on Bauk’s hit to left-center.
“Foster threw me a human pitch for the first time,” Bauk said. “It was up.”
It stayed 1-1 until Will Beeson, Mocksville’s catcher, relieved Foster in the seventh.
Chase Hathcock’s clutch bloop hit plated Jared Mathis with a go-ahead run, and Bauk crushed a hanging curve from Beeson for a run-scoring double and a 3-1 lead.
Mocksville got a run in the eighth against Alex Bost when a two-out error gave Foster a chance to rip a run-scoring double, but Bost held the lead.
When Bost walked Matt Miller to start the ninth — bouncing ball four — Bauk relieved. Three strikeouts later, Rowan owned the series.