Legion lets DC off the hook

Published 10:18 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Mocksville Legion baseball team had Game Three – until it didn’t.

With his team’s back against the wall, pitcher Jacob Campbell was up to the task. The righthander had a one-hit shutout through five innings, and when the first Davidson County batter in the sixth popped up to the infield, the Warhawgs were a worm on a hook.

Mocksville, though, dropped the popup. The 2-0 lead turned into an agonizing 3-2 loss on July 17 at Holt Moffitt Field in Lexington.

Davidson County (19-8) swept the best-of-five Area III semifinals series three games to none, earning a berth to the state tournament. Mocksville finished 15-21.

Mocksville skipper Charles Kurfees said: “We freaking blew it. We should be playing (a Game Four).”

Although Game Three was a pitchers’ duel between Campbell and Dylan Ward, Ward’s fourth offering landed over the fence. In the top of the first, Joey Szvetitz staked Mocksville to a 1-0 lead with his third home run of the summer.

Campbell worked around two walks in the Davidson first and retired the hosts in order in the second. In the Mocksville third, Campbell opened with a single to left, but Ward got the next three batters. In the home third, Campbell escaped a bases-loaded jam – catcher’s interference and two walks filled the bags – to preserve the 1-0 lead. In the top of the fourth, Patrick Usher led off with a single to left but was erased by a 6-4-3 double play. In the home fourth, Noah Coleman’s bunt hit broke up Campbell’s no-hitter. He advanced to second on a sac bunt, but Campbell induced a popout to first and a strikeout to end the inning.

Mocksville tacked on a run in the fifth. Hunter Meacham ambushed the first pitch for a double to left. He moved to third on David Highman’s groundout and scored when Campbell helped himself with a sac fly to center.

Campbell hit two batters in the fifth but got out of it. With a one-hit shutout going into the sixth, you had to like Mocksville’s chances, especially when Coleman opened the home half of the inning with a popup between first and second. The ball was (gasp) dropped, leaving the door cracked for Davidson. An awful sequence of events unfolded for Mocksville.

After Coleman advanced on a passed ball, Nathan Burton singled. The ball was errored in the outfield and a run scored. After a groundout, pinch-hitter Drew Wright walked on a 3-2 pitch. The runner at second tagged up and moved to third on a flyout. With runners at the corners and two outs, Campbell struck out Carson Simpson on a pitch in the dirt. But the throw from the catcher short-hopped first baseman Spencer Claus, and everybody was safe and the game was tied 2-2. Two pitches later, a slider got away and Wright scored the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch.

“I just kept telling our guys: ‘Keep hitting it hard,’” Davidson County coach Keaton Hawks told The Dispatch. “We lined a lot of balls up, just right at people. I just kept thinking: ‘We’ll get a break.’”

Campbell, who made just his third start after 10 relief appearances, pitched wonderfully in his longest mound action of the season. He was averaging two innings per outing.

Kurfees: “He gutted it out.”

Assistant coach Andrew Jones: “He threw a two-hitter and one of (the hits) was a bunt. To throw a two-hitter in that kind of situation … he pitched his butt off.”

Campbell’s final line: six innings, no earned runs, five walks, three strikeouts. He got one ground out and 13 flyouts.

Jones: “He should have thrown more innings than he did this season. I just didn’t realize how good he was until after Senior Week. Before Senior Week, he was good at coming out of the bullpen. He was that one arm we could bring in and we knew exactly what we were getting out of him. He kept them offbalance with his curveball, and he slipped in his changeup every one in a while.”

Ward went six innings for the Warhawgs, allowing five hits with no walks or strikeouts. Fifty of his 70 pitches were strikes.

Hawks: “(Ward) was huge. That’s how he is. He’s gonna grind it out. He’s got good command with all three pitches, and he kept their guys offbalance.”

Mocksville staged a late rally of its own – only to see it fall short. Davidson County reliever Jake Brown retired the first batter in the top of the seventh, but Meacham provided hope with an inspiring at-bat. After falling behind 0-2, he fouled off two pitches and walked on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

Meacham was an offensive spark after missing six games for family vacation. This was his first game in nine days.

Jones: “To come from vacation and hit it like he did … I hate it for him because he’s been a workhorse (at catcher). He didn’t catch any during the high school season, and he had to get readjusted to catching.”

A strikeout looking had Mocksville down to its last out. Campbell helped himself again with a single to right that allowed Meacham to race to third. The tying run was 90 feet away with one of Mocksville’s hottest hitters, Will Cheek, in the box.

Jones: “We gave ourselves a chance.”

Cheek singled earlier to give him at least one hit in 10 of 11 games. He fell behind 0-2. He hit it hard but Brown fielded the comebacker and threw to first to close the book on Mocksville’s season.

Jones: “(Cheek) hit it hard. He just hit it right back to the pitcher. The pitcher had to make a play.”

Mocksville tripled Davidson in hits (6-2). That advantage, though, was nullified by four errors to Davidson’s zero. Campbell went 2-2. Szvetitz (1-3), Patrick Usher (1-3), Meacham (1-2) and Cheek (1-3) had one hit each.

Jones: “That’s a tough way to lose. We had Jalen Austin ready to go in Game Four. So we had a plan. But every error, every mistake equals a run against a good team.”

Davidson, which took all five meetings from Mocksville this season, met Randolph County in the Area III final. Since both teams had earned berths to the state tournament in Cherryville, they played just one game on July 21. Randolph won 6-4, giving it five area titles in 13 years.

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Although Mocksville endured a seventh straight .500/losing season, it captured fans’ imaginations down the stretch. By winning seven of nine, Post 174 advanced to the Area III semifinals for the first time in 19 years. It finished with the most wins in seven years.

Jones: “We took a team of guys who didn’t get to play very much throughout the high school season, except for maybe two players. Szvetitz and (Troy) Clary were the only ones who got to play on a regular basis in high school. (Justin) Chaffin got to pitch on a regular basis, but out of relief. They did the best they could and we ended up getting to the third round. That’s pretty good.”

Kurfees: “We went on a run in the playoffs that I would have never, ever thought. We ended on a good note. I’m proud of them. Those boys played hard in the playoffs.”

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Mocksville witnessed a historic performance from Szvetitz, who broke a single-season record that had stood for 28 years. Shane Wagoner hit .449 (40 for 89) in 1990. Now there is a new batting-average standard in a record book that dates 38 years. Szvetitz hit .469 (46 for 98). To illustrate Szvetitz’s value as the shortstop/leadoff man, Mocksville went 15-11 with him in the lineup; it went 0-10 without him.

Kurfees: “Joey is a first-class guy. He’s going to do well in his life. As far as his baseball career, he’s going to get stronger. He’s got a body that’s going to get bigger and stronger, and I think he’s going to be a force to deal with when he gets to Winthrop.”

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Usher’s 14 doubles put him in a tie for third on the all-time Mocksville list. Connor Bodenhamer had 16 in 2012, Allen Bruce 15 in 1987 and Ryan Foster 14 in 2012. Meacham had 12 doubles to tie for fifth.

Usher also clubbed eight home runs, tying for 13th place.