Legion baseball: Rowan County 17, Mooresville 11
By Mike London
MOORESVILLE ó Rowan County heads to the state tournament as the Area III champion for the first time since 2002, when draft picks Cal Hayes Jr., Bobby Parnell and Spencer Steedley were on the squad.
Rowan belted four homers and outscored Mooresville 17-11 on Tuesday to sweep a best-of-three series. Rowan takes momentum into Saturday’s state tournament game against Duplin-Sampson at at East Carolina.
“It should be a shot in the arm for us to win this,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “The guys were excited. They were talking about dog-piling after the last out. It meant something to them.”
Trey Holmes hit two homers, while Noah Holmes and Billy Veal had one each for Rowan, which qualified for the previous two state tournaments as the Area III runner-up.
Rowan (27-6) boosted its record-setting homer total to 52 and is batting .368 as team. Trey Holmes has 11 homers, tied for the fifth-highest season total in program history.
Noah Holmes kept up with his older brother, banging out four hits and homering for the second straight game. Veal got his homer of the year, a three-run shot to center in the ninth.
It’s hard to slow down Rowan with rested pitchers. It was impossible for the Moors (18-12) to do it with a weary staff running on fumes.
“We threw two frontline pitchers out there tonight for 40 pitches each, then we put four position players on the mound,” Mooresville coach Josh Graham said. “Ross Whitley (soreness) and Aaron Meadows (foot) weren’t available. If they had been, we would’ve tried it different.”
Rowan starting pitcher Preston Troutman had a no-hitter for three innings and a shutout for four. Eric Manser hit a grand slam in the fifth, and Rowan was down 6-1.
“Preston threw pretty good,” Gantt said. “He just got tired.”
It was the largest deficit Rowan has faced since it trailed Mooresville 7-1 after 31/2 innings early in the season. All six of Rowan’s losses have been by one or two runs.
Things looked grim for Rowan at that point, but the Moors didn’t send Wes Dumford, who had pitched three shutout innings, back to the mound. Rowan got its offense rolling against guys who don’t pitch often.
Rowan sent 11 batters to the plate in a game-tying, five-run sixth ignited by Noah Holmes’ two-run homer.
After the Moors moved back in front 8-6, Rowan sent 12 men to the plate in a seven-run seventh. Brantley Horton was throwing the ball well for the Moors, but Rowan put two on with two out thanks to a walk and Philip Miclat’s bunt single, prompting Gantt to call on Matt Miller as a pinch-hitter.
Miller dumped a hit into left for a run-scoring single. After Miller advanced to second ó barely ó on a wild pitch, the Moors intentionally walked Trey Holmes to fill the bases.
Russell Michalec came through with a two-run single for a 9-8 lead. He didn’t hit the ball hard, but he muscled it over the infield.
“Tough situation,” Michalec said. “I got down in the count and fought off an 0-2 pitch for the base hit. We trailed at times tonight, but the coaches kept pushing. We didn’t back down. We wanted to end this series and get some rest.”
Noah Holmes’ two-run single came shortly after Michalec’s key hit. That made it 11-8. Rowan was on its way.
“Our bats got fired up,” Trey Holmes said. “Noah is really hot. That could be huge if it carries over to Greenville.”
Rowan has scored 62 runs while going 4-0 against the Moors this season and still hasn’t lost a playoff game at Mooresville since 1994.
“We were a strike away from getting out of that seventh inning two times,” Graham said. “But the way Rowan swings it, I don’t see how anyone ever beats them. They always play tough against us.”