Post 171 pulls a stunner

Published 10:52 am Thursday, June 27, 2019

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By Mike London

Salisbury Post

Mocksville’s American Legion baseball team had a historic Sunday night.

Visiting Mocksville took over at Newman Park, out-pitching, out-defending and out-hitting Rowan for an emphatic 11-0 victory in a division game, a result that will have fans of Stanly County, Mooresville, Concord and Kannapolis punching the air. The race in the Southern Division of Area III is officially wide open. Rowan (18-7, 3-2) may still find a way to win the division once again, but Rowan, which also fell convincingly to Mooresville, isn’t the clear-cut favorite that it usually is.

Mocksville won on Rowan’s home field for the first time since 2012.

Legion games switched from nine-inning to seven-inning affairs prior to the 2018 season, which also meant a change as far as the 10-run “mercy rule” from seven innings to five.  Rowan fans, and there were a lot of them  gathered at Newman Park on Sunday, watched Rowan lose in five for the first time ever.

Mocksville pitcher Jalen Austin, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who recently graduated from West Forsyth High, deserves most of the blame – or credit, depending on whom you root for – for what happened on Sunday. He pitched three hitless innings and four scoreless innings before reliever Justin Chaffin finished off Rowan in the fifth.

Shutting out Rowan is no small feat. Rowan lost 2-0 to Davidson County early in the 2015 season, but it had played 197 games since then without being shut out. Now that streak is over.

Rowan had not been mercy-ruled by anyone since a debacle at Asheboro’s McCrary Park in the summer of 2016. That was in the NC/SC Challenge. Florence hit Rowan with a nine-spot in the sixth inning and scored five more runs in the seventh to crush Rowan 17-5.

Sunday’s lopsided victory by Mocksville (8-13, 2-4) was only its second triumph in its last 20 outings against Rowan. The last time Mocksville had mercy-ruled Rowan was at Rich Park by a 13-3 score early in the 2011 season. Rowan shrugged off that defeat and was still able to make it to the state tournament.

As far as being mercy-ruled at Newman Park, that hadn’t happened to Rowan in nine seasons. Lexington stomped Rowan 17-7 in front of stunned fans in 2010. That Rowan team still went 30-13 and reached the Area III championship series.

So it’s not like all is lost for Rowan. The team had a miserable night, but baseball seasons are long, and you’re bound to have some rough outings along the way. Mocksville lost to Stanly County, 14-0, not long ago, but obviously got back on track. After struggling mightily during a 1-12 slump, Post 174 has suddenly won three in a row.

Rowan starting pitcher Bryson Wagner was able to pitch out of a jam in the first inning, but Mocksville got to him in the second. Three singles gave Mocksville a 1-0 lead before an error extended the inning. When Patrick Usher launched a three-run homer to center field, Rowan was in a 5-0 hole and never recovered.

Mocksville took advantage of another infield error by Rowan in the third. Mocksville got four straight hits with two men out, including a two-run double by Joey Szvetitz. Rowan reliever Michael Molenda finally got that elusive third out, but by then Mocksville’s lead was 8-0.

Will Cheek’s two-out RBI single in the top of the fourth against Rowan reliever Scout Nichols extended Mocksville’s lead to 9-0.

Luke Barringer whacked a drive to the wall for Rowan’s first hit to start the bottom of the fourth and was steaming toward second when the throw arrived well ahead of him. Barringer retreated, but was caught in a rundown and tagged out.

After Bo Rusher lined out, CP Pyle, Zeb Burns and JT Fecteau  had good at-bats to load the bases, but Austin concluded the inning with a strikeout of No. 9 batter Steven Smith.

Mocksville, which had 14 hits, just kept swinging in the top of the fifth. Run-scoring singles by Nick Ward and Hunter Meacham made it 11-0.

Cole Hales walked in the bottom of the fifth against Chaffin, but Rowan went down quietly to end the game.

Notes: Mocksville’s leading hitters: Szvetitz 3-for-4, 3 RBIs; Ward 2-for-4, 2 RBIs; Cheek 2-for-3, RBI; Troy Clary 2-for-3, RBI; Meacham 2-for-4; RBI and Usher 1-for-4, 3 RBIs. … What made the night more special for Mocksville, which lost 13-6 and 8-2 to Rowan earlier this season, was it had dropped 10 straight at Newman Park. Its last road win in the series was 5-3 in the 2012 playoffs. … Before visiting Rowan, Mocksville rallied past Stanly County, 7-6, on June 21.