Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 16, 2013

LANDIS — Southern Rowan had only one problem Saturday night — Jon Stires.
The Mooresville Moors’ lefthander pitched the kind of game postseason awards are made for, hurling seven scoreless innings and lifting Post 66 to a 4-0 victory at South Rowan High School.
“He threw a lot of stuff away,” SR leadoff batter Tyler Fuller said. “Especially that curve ball. I’m a lefthanded hitter and it just kept cutting away and out of the zone.”
Stires, a Lake Norman graduate who will head to Louisburg Community College in the fall, was clearly master of his domain. He allowed only two singles — Fuller’s bunny-hop grounder into right field in the first inning and Matt Honeycutt’s Texas Leaguer to center in the second. Otherwise he pitched as though the strike zone was low-and-away and was nearly unhittable.
“My curve and changeup were working really well,” he chirped after fanning 10 and walking three in a tidy, 102-pitch effort. “They were always chasing the curve in the dirt so I just kept throwing it.”
Losing coach Ben Hampton was disappointed his team failed to adjust to Stires’ tantalizing, off-speed assortment.
“He kind of pitched backwards,” Hampton said after Southern (8-5) had its modest, three-game winning streak snapped. “This is the fourth time we’ve seen this team so they probably know our hitters as well as we know theirs. He kept us off-balance with his off-speed stuff and then threw the fastball when he needed to. That made his fastball more effective.”
Stires (2-1) was at his best in the middle innings. He retired 14 of the last 15 Southern hitters, including 12 straight between the third and seventh frames.
“He knows how to pitch, both inside-and-out and up-and-down,” Moors coach Seth Graham said. “His breaking ball was down and his fastball was up. That’s a good combination and he used it well.”
Mooresville (6-8) quickly plated the only run it would need to prevail. Seth Hubbard smoked the game’s first pitch — a delicious, belt-high fastball from SR starter Tyler Sides — for a triple to right field. Jesse Seaford lined Sides’ next delivery for a sac fly. Before the inning was over the Moors went up 2-0 on Michael Knight’s run-scoring single that crashed off the left-field fence.
“Nine innings in a long time,” Hampton said. “And you tend to have more success when you can answer immediately. We never did.”
Instead, they offered little resistance and struck out 15 times. On the bright side, the last four of SR’s seven pitchers — Aaron Bare, Billy Winecoff, John Daugherty and Austin Bracewell — each provided a 1-2-3 inning of relief.
“We just didn’t perform like we have been,” said Fuller. “You can’t win striking out 15 times. Well, you can. Anything’s possible. But it’s baseball.”
— and it can be a humbling game.”