Legion Baseball: Rowan wins division championship
Published 11:57 pm Sunday, July 1, 2018
MOORESVILLE — Rowan County won its sixth straight outright division championship on Sunday night, but there were some deep breaths and anxious moments.
Rowan held on to beat last-place Mooresville, 5-4, just 24 hours after Post 342 had thoroughly demolished Mooresville Post 66 at Newman Park, 20-4.
There was a lot of talk about tiebreaking scenarios leading up to the game, but Mocksville’s victory at home against second-place Kannapolis gave Rowan, 8-2 in the division, another outright title. There were no ties in the Southern Division of Area III standings.
The first-place finish means a first-round bye in the playoffs for Rowan, while Kannapolis must play a best-of-three first-round series, starting Tuesday. Kernersville, in the cellar in the Northern Division, is the most likely opponent for Kannapolis, but Kernersville plays tonight and still has a chance to climb out of the basement.
Rowan head coach Jim Gantt had promised his team that it could take the Fourth of July off it didn’t have to play in the first round, and Rowan players will get a well-deserved mini-vacation after finishing the regular season with a 22-6 overall record that exceeded expectations. A number of Rowan’s players, including Sunday’s winning pitcher Daniel Sell, saw very limited varsity high school action.
“Well, they almost messed up their vacation,” Gantt said with a laugh. “But, for the most part, our guys have done a really good job all season.”
Rowan stood two games behind Kannapolis at one point but was able to scramble back into the race. Kannapolis dropped three of its last four, including a 4-3 struggle that Rowan won in the bottom of the seventh at Newman Park.
Rowan didn’t hit much at all on Sunday, didn’t pitch great and messed up two rundowns on defense, but still managed to escape with another victory.
Sell walked five in four innings, but he also struck out five, and he made some big pitches when he needed to.
Rowan played from in front, piecing together a three-run top of the first that includes singles by Trevor Atwood, Chandler Lippard and Luke Barringer. Barringer’s sharp single plated a run. Rowan also scored on Wayne Mize’s groundout and on a wild pitch.
Mooresville (4-15, 1-9) nicked Sell for a single run in the first on Brantley Sherrill’s two-out RBI single.
Clayton Gilmore’s groundout got John Owen home from third in the second inning, as Rowan quickly got that run back.
The biggest out that Sell managed to get was a strikeout of Tafton Hensley in the third after he had walked the bases full.
Rowan made it 5-1 in the fourth on walks, wild pitches and errors, but Owen was out the plate to end the inning when he tried to score on Gilmore’s flyball.
From there, Rowan grimly held on. Rowan catcher Garrett Alewine threw out a basestealer to end the bottom of the fourth when Mooresville had two men on.
Maddux Holshouser pitched the fifth for Rowan and struggled to settle in. Mooresville strung together hits off the lefty and crept back in the game at 5-3. Mooresville would have gotten more but Rowan left fielder Mize made a strong throw home to Alewine that turned a potential sacrifice fly into an inning-ending double play.
Owen, like Holshouser, one of Rowan’s primary starters, headed to the mound for the sixth, but Mooresville kept hitting. Rowan’s lead dwindled to 5-4 after Hunter Dula lashed a double off the right-field wall and Bailey Jones singled him home.
Mooresville put the tying run on base in the seventh when Hensley beat out a one-out bunt, but Owen got the second out on a flyball. Owen earned a save and Sell a win when Alewine threw out the speedy Hensley, who was trying to get in scoring position by swiping second, to end the game.
Mooresville made third outs on the basees in the fourth, sixth and seventh, as Rowan dodged a major upset.
“We didn’t take them lightly,” Owen said. “Mooresville has some good players and they have the capability of beating anyone they play.”
NOTES: Rowan stole four bases, with Owen pilfering two. … Rowan’s opponent in the second round is going to be the survivor of Stanly County’s best-of-three series with the Northern Division’s No. 4 seed, whoever that turns out to be. There are two Northern Division finales being played tonight. … Rowan played without standout outfielder/pitcher Hayden Setzer (forearm).
Rowan County 310 100 0 — 5 6 2
Mooresville 100 021 0 — 4 8 1
W — Sell (3-2). S — Owen (1). L — Dawson Salter.
HR — None.
Leading hitters — Mooresville: Jones 2-for-3; Dula 2-for-4; Sherrill 2-for-4.
My first game at Newman park since I was a 11 year old kid watching Class D Pro Ball!!! Loved it. Spent 2 days reminiscing in E. Spencer, Spencer LL Park, RR stations, all historic sites that as a kid you take for granted, and eating at every BBQ joint in Rowan County. Would love to have seen you. You do a wonderful job covering ALL local sports!!