Mocksville Legion falls to unbeaten Rowan

Published 8:38 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mocksville’s Legion baseball team pinched Rowan County’s starting pitcher in the second and third innings, but it couldn’t solve three Rowan relievers in a 6-2 road loss on June 9.

Mocksville took 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the early going against Rowan starter Hayden Setzer, but the lefty from East Rowan High responded with zeroes in the fourth and fifth innings and Brett Graham (2 IP, 0 H, 3 K), Will Brown (1 IP, 2 K) and Griffin Myers (1 IP, 0 H) were dynamic in relief.

“Everybody talks about getting to Rowan County’s bullpen because their starters are so good,” Mocksville coach Charles Kurfees said. “Well, tonight their bullpen was pretty tough.”

This was a non-league game. Mocksville (6-7) suffered a third straight loss and its second defeat to Rowan in four days. On the other hand, it was business as usual for Rowan, which used its seventh comeback to improve to 9-0. Rowan is the defending state champion and American Legion World Series runner-up.

“It sounds better on paper, better than it looks,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt told the Salisbury Post. “We’ve still got a lot of things we’ve got to do better, but the guys show up and compete. That’s the best thing.”

In the top of the second at Catawba College’s Newman Park, Mikey Smith walked and advanced on David Highman’s sac bunt. Following a passed ball, Smith scored on Drew Martin’s sac fly to left.

In the bottom of the second, Rowan tied it on a one-out double and a two-out infield hit.

In the Mocksville third, Jamie Sheek singled but was picked off. With two outs, the beastly Tyler Campbell feasted on a Setzer fastball, resulting in a home run to dead center. Mocksville had the 2-1 lead.

It was the second homer for Campbell, who has a nine-game hitting streak and .441 average.

The rest of the game, however, evoked images from the first meeting. In the 8-5 home loss to Rowan, Mocksville watched Rowan score the final seven runs. In this one, Rowan pushed across five unanswered runs.

Chandler Blackwelder’s fourth-inning single to center tied it at 2. Lee Poteat’s triple and Brandon Walton’s single to right helped Rowan forge a 4-2 advantage in the fifth.

“Yeah, we fell behind again,” Setzer told the Post. “But honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I knew we had a great lineup and could always come back.”

Both Mocksville runs were charged to Setzer, who walked four and uncorked two wild pitches in five innings.

“Setzer’s got good stuff,” Gantt said. “When he matures and believes that his stuff is good, he’s really going to be something special. Tonight he gave up a couple hits, but then settled in and showed us what he’s capable of.”

Rowan added insurance in a two-run sixth. Trevor Atwood’s RBI single to center chased Mocksville starter James Martin. Landon Bandy relieved with the bases loaded and opened with a four-pitch walk, making it 6-2.

“I really like this team,” Poteat told the Post. “We don’t have any power hitters, just a bunch of driven guys who want to win another state championship.”

Martin (1-1) came in with a 0.00 ERA over 11.1 innings and two starts, but he was roughed up for six runs (five earned) on eight hits over 5.1 innings. His control problems persisted: six walks and two hit batsmen.

Martin’s outing didn’t shake Kurfees’ confidence. “Martin’s a good pitcher,” he said.

The Graham-Brown-Griffin bullpen combined for one-hit ball for four innings. Jalen Scott, batting cleanup, wasn’t fazed, going 3 for 4 with two doubles. A five-game hitting streak has lifted his average to .375. Sheek (1-4), Campbell (1-3, walk) and Jesse Draughn (1-3, walk) had the other hits for Mocksville.

“We didn’t play bad,” Kurfees said. “Rowan is just a good team with lots of pitching. Nobody has beat them yet, and when you’ve got pitching like they’ve got, not too many people are going to.”

Bandy’s ERA remained zero through his third relief stint. He went 2.2 hitless innings and worked around three walks.

Notes: Mocksville’s team batting average has tumbled to .264 during a 1-5 slump. … M. Smith went hitless but drew his 12th and 13th walk or hit by pitch. That’s a team high. … Due to Elkin’s graduation, Mocksville was missing workhorse catcher Matt Martir-Tullock. Cody Smith had the unenviable task of replacing him behind the dish.