CONCORD – After trailing by five runs after just two innings, Concord Post 51 was back in it.
The team had rallied against Mocksville to narrow the margin to a single run, and the Post 51 players’ energy level was up as they took the field for the start of the final inning Tuesday night.
And then it all disappeared.
With inadvertent help from Concord, Mocksville exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh inning and went on to take a 14-6 victory in Game 1 of a second-round matchup of the Area III Senior American Legion baseball playoffs.
The teams were scheduled to play Game 2 of the best-of-5 series today at Mocksville’s Rich Park.
Post 51 was in disbelief about the way things fell apart in the first outing Wednesday night.
“The wheels fell off the wagon, and we kind of drug it around a while,” Concord coach Jaymie Russ said bluntly.
Although Post 51 ultimately fought its way back into the game, it took a while.
Mocksville scored a run off starting pitcher Maven Parker in the first inning and then added four more in the second to build its early advantage.
Concord finally got on the board in the third inning when Larken Lancaster’s well-hit single scored Evan McGee. Ick Cirino walked, and Jose Vargas’ sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second third with one out. But Concord had its hope for a bigger inning doused when Mocksville pitcher Jacob Campbell fielded a ball from Jacob Rowden’s bat and fired home to throw out Lancaster, and catcher Patrick Usher made a throw to first base that just beat out Rowden for an inning-ending double play.
Concord made more strong moves in the fifth and the sixth innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cirino led off with a walk and worked his way to third base on a wild pitch and a Vargas single. Cirino tried to make his way on a Rowden bunt but was thrown out, however, Parker later helped his own cause with a two-RBI single to cut the Mocksville lead to 6-3.
But again, the chance for Concord to do more damage was taken away by an inning-ending Mocksville double play.
Mocksville added a run in the top of the sixth to nudge its lead to 7-3, but a pitching change proved costly for the visitors.
Nick Ward came on in relief for Campbell, and Concord produced its biggest inning of the night. And after a Ray Beaver walk, Adam Wilkerson sent him home to make it 7-4. Dylan Newsome followed with a walk, and Lancaster’s bloop single loaded the bases.
After that, it turned into a series of free trips home for Post 51, starting with Vargas’ walk to send in Beaver.
Mocksville made another pitching change, bringing in Usher, who struck out the first batter he faced. But Parker then drew a walk, allowing Newsome to touch the plate without intervention and narrow the margin to 7-6.
The tide, it seemed, had turned, and Beaver was sent to the mound to put Concord in position to overcome its one-run deficit in the final stanza.
But that seventh inning wasn’t pretty for Post 51.
While scoring its seven runs, Mocksville needed just three hits. During the decisive half-inning, there were three hit batsmen and two walks, both with the bases loaded, and 12 Mocksville batters came to the plate.
Concord’s night was effectively done.
“We knew going into this game that Mocksville was going to swing the bats,” Russ said. “They’re scary offensively. We can be equally as scary, but we just can’t leave 10 or 11 guys on base. We had the bases loaded twice and maybe got a run or two out of them. We got runs off walks. There was never a ball driven into the gap or something to put the pressure on or turn the tide a little bit.
“We had opportunities, and we’ve got to do a better job with those opportunities when we have them,” Russ added. “Not getting that big hit hurt us. When we had the bases loaded, if we put two balls in the gap there, you’re talking about a five-run difference.”
Lancaster and Wilkerson led Post 51 with two hits and an RBI apiece, while Parker racked up three RBIs. So Concord, which won the Southern Division and earned a first-round bye, still believes its chances are good to win the series, especially since it’s best-of-5.
“I told the guys, don’t let Game 1 define the series,” Russ said. “In a five-game series, a lot of stuff can happen. We know (Mocksville is) coming off a three-game series where they went deep in three games and extra innings a lot of games. They used a lot of arms. We know they’re still kind of scraping that barrel, and we’ve still got a lot of guys that are fresh.
“So the opportunity’s there (Wednesday) to take that game and flip it back, and then Thursday come back here and go up 2-1. But we’ve got to take care of business (Wednesday). We’ve got to tie it up.”
Mocksville 140 011 7 – 14 12 2
Concord 001 023 0 – 6 9 0
Mocksville hits – Spencer Claus (3), Nick Ward (3), Patrick Usher (3), Will Cheek (2), Joey Szvetitz
Mocksville RBIs – Ward (4), Claus (3), Usher (2), Bailey McNight, Szvetitz
Concord hits – Adam Wilkerson (2), Larken Lancaster (2), Jose Vargas, Jake Rowden, Maven Parker, Evan McGee, Dylan Newsome
Concord RBIs – Parker (3), Vargas, Wilkerson, Lancaster
WP: Jacob Campbell (5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K)
LP: Maven Parker (6 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 6 K)
SV: Patrick Usher (1.2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K)