Legion baseball: Wike, Hales key Rowan victory

Published 11:07 pm Sunday, June 16, 2019

By Mike London

MOCKSVILLE — Rowan County won its first divisional game on Sunday night, beating Mocksville 8-2 on the road, but things didn’t start smoothly.

Rowan right-hander Deacon Wike’s 24-pitch first inning didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Mocksville smoked four line drives in the first, three for base hits, and led 1-0. There were three more Mocksville line shots and two more hits in the second inning, as the home team pushed its lead to 2-0 at Rich Park’s Mando Field.

“Deacon was getting some balls up and he was getting some balls up when he had two strikes that they hit hard,” Rowan head coach Jim Gantt said.

Meanwhile, Mocksville starting pitcher Nick Ward breezed through six Rowan batters in the first two innings.

“He was mixing his pitches up really well,” Rowan third baseman Cole Hales said. “We couldn’t figure him out.”

In the third inning, with the help of two Mocksville errors, Rowan scratched out a run.

In the bottom of that inning, Wike put up his first zero. The tide was turning.

“He started locating better and his curveball was getting better,” Gantt said. “He was able to throw it up or down behind his fastball.”

Ward took a 2-1 lead to the fifth, but Rowan’s fifth proved to be the decisive half-inning.

With one out, No. 9 hitter CP Pyle walked. After Pyle stole second, Jordan Goodine also walked.

Ward got ahead of Hales 0-and-2, but that’s when Hales had the game’s key swing.

“He threw a breaking ball away on 0-and-2, a slider, I think, and I just went with the pitch,” Hales said. “I hit it down into the right-field corner.”

That opposite-field double scored Pyle with the tying run and advanced Goodine to third base. Ward got Wayne Mize on a ground ball to third for the second out. Then an intentional pass  to Luke Barringer was ordered to load the bases, a strategic move that made plenty of sense — but didn’t work out.

Walks to Bo Rusher and Daniel Durham followed, and Rowan had a 4-2 lead. Credit Rusher and Durham for not being patient, rather than over-anxious.

“It really helped Deacon that we got him a few runs,” Gantt said.  “He did a great job of pitching with the lead.”

In the top of the sixth, Rowan’s first two hitters went down quickly, but Goodine kept the inning alive with another walk. That gave Hales a chance to swing, and he came through again.

“I hit that one good and really thought it was going out,” Hales said. “I thought it was out until I heard (first base coach) Adam Patterson telling me to run.”

That shot hit the top of the wall in straight-away center, which is closer at Mando Field than it is in most parks. Hales had his third hit and second double and Goodine, running all the way with two outs, scored easily from first base to make it 5-2.

Ward had contained the red-hot Mize all night, but then he whacked his first hit up the middle to score Hales for his 36th RBI, and it was 6-2.

Next, Barringer hit a bomb, his fourth homer of the summer, and it was 8-2. Rowan (15-5, 1-0) had scored four two-out runs.

Barringer struggled during Rowan’s road trip in the NC/SC Challenge, but he’s streaky. Now he might be hot again.

“Nothing felt right in South Carolina and I never felt good at the plate,” Barringer said. “I don’t know what happened down there, but after we got back,  Coach (Seth) Graham worked with me on some things. On that home run, it was a first pitch, and the pitcher shook off the catcher, so I’m thinking I’m going to get a curveball, and I did. I had a really tight swing at it, kept my hands in, and hit it pretty good.”

While the dimensions at Mando Field are even smaller than Newman Park’s, when the 6-foot-4 Barringer gets hold of one it’s probably a home run no matter where he’s swinging.

That homer on a wicked liner over the wall in left brought some relief to Barringer as well as Rowan fans.

“I was bad enough in South Carolina that my mom was starting to get sympathetic with me,” Barringer said. “I kept telling her I’m OK, and I believe I’m back now. That’s the thing about baseball, you might go for 0-for-10, but then you might go 10-for-10.”

Barringer’s blast capped an explosion. In two innings, Rowan went from trailing 2-1 to leading comfortably by seven runs.

“It all happened pretty fast,” Gantt said. “Their starting pitcher had done a good job to that point, changing arm angles, mixing his pitches. We hit some balls hard early and didn’t have much to show for it, but  I thought we’d be OK,  as long as we didn’t get frustrated. Then we got a bunch of runs in the fifth and sixth. The ball Barringer hit — he just hit the crap out of it.”

Wike, a Catawba signee who boosted his record to 2-1, got Mocksville out 1-2-3 in the sixth. He rolled 1-2-3 again in the seventh for a complete game. He got his fourth and fifth strikeouts in the seventh.

Wike threw 93 pitches, 64 for strikes.

“Wike got a lot of swings-and-misses in the seventh,” Gantt said. “He got better and better.”

Both teams were charged with two errors. Mocksville (5-13, 0-4) out-hit Rowan 9-7, but Wike didn’t walk anyone, while Rowan drew seven walks, including five in the pivotal fifth inning.

“Walks can kill you,” Gantt said. “They make the difference most of the time.”

Rowan is back in action at Newman Park on Monday night for a divisional game against Mooresville. Bryson Wagner will be Rowan’s starting pitcher.


Rowan         001  034   0    — 8   7   2

Mocksville   110  000    0   — 2   9   2

W — Wike (2-1). L — Ward.

HR — Rowan: Barringer (4).

Leading hitters — Rowan: Hales 3-for-4, 2 RBIs; Barringer 2-for-3, 2 RBIs. Mocksville: Joey Szvetitz 3-for-4; Ward 2-for-4, RBI.