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American Legion Baseball: Rowan rallies to win Game 2

MOCKSVILLE — Ninth-seeded Mocksville-Davie was the better team for eight innings, but Rowan County’s six-run ninth inning provided a 7-3 victory Tuesday at Mando Field that had Rowan fans screaming and Mocksville fans shaking their heads in disbelief.
“I hate it happened the way it did,” Mocksville coach Charles Kurfees said. “But Rowan County’s hitters are so disciplined. You give them an inch, they take a mile. It was tough. Things snowballed on us.”
An error on a grounder that would’ve been the second out in the ninth opened the door for Rowan. Juan Garcia produced the go-ahead hit as Rowan’s rally wrecked a brilliant performance by Mocksville starter Brett Fulk. The right-hander left in the eighth with a 2-1 lead.
Top-seeded Rowan (19-5) has won 17 of its last 18 games and grabbed a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five, second-round series in the Area III Tournament. Rowan is 17-0 all-time in playoff series with Mocksville. A win Wednesday at Newman Park — Hunter Shepherd will pitch — would make it 18-0.
Fulk and Rowan ace Omar Bautista dueled a long time, with Bautista aided by double plays in the first, second and third innings. When Elijah Jones and Nick Wilson got back-to-back hits in the fourth against Bautista, Garcia trotted over from third base to chat with his friend.
“I told Omar to relax and take his time,” Garcia said with a laugh. “Omar told me to get ready to field a groundball.”
On the next pitch, Kenny Overfelt hit a groundball to Garcia to end the inning.
Rowan turned its fourth double play behind Bautista in the fifth to keep the game scoreless.
“If they’d gotten some hits with men on they would’ve had a big lead,” Rowan County coach Jim Gantt said. “But our infield was fun to watch. They made good plays and turned double plays that kept us in the game.”
In the sixth, Rowan finally scored against Fulk. Garcia lasered a double to center and was able to score when Riley’s Myers’ bloop single to right field was bobbled.
“That pitcher had kind of a jerky motion, and he had good location that gave us trouble,” Garcia said.
Mocksville (10-17) answered to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on singles by Charlie Muchukot, Ross Hoffner and Barrett Hennings. Bautista’s wild pitch made it 1-1, and Wilson’s RBI groundout put Mocksville ahead 2-1.
Colby Cranfill relieved Fulk in the eighth with two on and one out, and a drive down the right-field line by Dustin Ritchie that flirted with being a two-run double sliced foul. When Cranfill struck out Ritchie and Hunter Shepherd to end the eighth, it looked bleak for Rowan, but there was still an inning to play.
Cranfill started the ninth with another strikeout, but second baseman Ross Hoffner mishandled Kacey Otto’s groundball, and then Harrison Baucom came back from 0-2 to walk on a 3-2 pitch. When Michael Caldwell stroked a flyball that fell in front of Hennings, the right fielder, Rowan had the bases loaded. Garcia was next, and he pulverized a 1-0 pitch through the left side to score Otto and Baucom for a 3-2 Rowan lead.
“I was looking for something besides a fastball, and I did get an off-speed pitch,” Garcia said. “We were smarter hitters in the ninth. We got ourselves in good situations, and we got hits.”
Caldwell scored on a passed ball to make it 4-2. Winning pitcher Heath Mitchem, who had relieved Bautista in the seventh, singled to make it 5-2. Shepherd crushed a two-run double to the right-field wall to boost Rowan’s lead to 7-2.
“We battled on our at-bats in the ninth,” Gantt said.
Rowan had 11 hits. Garcia and Mitchem had three apiece.
Overfelt crushed a homer in the ninth off Myers, but with the help of a running catch in center field by Otto, Myers finished off a night filled with drama.
“Tough losses have kind of been the story of our season,” Kurfees said. “But the sun will come up tomorrow. We’ll show up at Newman Park.”

Rowan County 000 001 006 — 7 11 0
Mocksville 000 002 001 — 3 11 6
W — Mitchem (2-0). L — Cranfill (4-3). HR — Overfelt (1).

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