Rowan Legion completes sweep, clinches Southeast
SALISBURY — Brian Bauk was lights-out on the mound again, and Chance Bowden and Harrison Baucom teamed for seven hits as Rowan County clobbered Stanly County 9-1 at Newman Park on Thursday night.
Still, catcher Nathan Fulbright got more handshakes and pats on the back than anyone after Rowan (16-7, 7-0) clinched the Area III Southeast Division championship.
With emergency catcher Luke Setzer already out of action with a badly cut foot and No. 2 catcher Michael Pinkston suffering a hand injury in the first inning of Thursday night’s contest, Fulbright was left as Rowan’s only healthy catcher on a muggy doubleheader day.
So he caught 18 long innings.
“I thought I was going to get the second game off,” the rising sophomore at Guilford said with a weary smile. “I was tired, but you do what you have to do for the team, and the way Bauk was throwing, it actually was a lot of fun. It was a pleasure to catch him.”
Bauk, who drove in three runs in Rowan’s thrilling 9-8 comeback win at Stanly in the first game of the twin bill, was more tired than usual, but coach Jim Gantt said that actually might have helped him.
“Because Bauk was tired, he was throwing real free and easy and not trying to muscle his fastball up there,” Gantt said. “The result was he had as good a fastball as he’s had all year.”
Bauk (4-0) dominated the early stages of the game. Stanly (12-9, 4-3) didn’t have a baserunner for three innings and didn’t manage a hit until the fifth.
Bauk fanned eight — all were swinging strikeouts — and he allowed just four hits in eight innings.
“I think it was two evenly matched teams,” Bauk said. “But I think they told themselves they were tired and hot and we didn’t do that. We went out and played.”
Rowan obviously had serious momentum from the amazing first game of the day, while Stanly had to be fighting some negative carry-over after watching a 6-0 lead go up in smoke.
“I know that had to be a crusher for them,” Bauk said. “But I think that game also said something about us. When you come back from 6-0, it says a lot about you.”
Rowan shortstop Ashton Fleming injured an ankle in the opener, but Michael Caldwell filled in capably in the nightcap. Fleming said he’ll be able to play soon.
Lefty Russ Weiker, a dominant hurler for 1A state champ South Stanly, was Bauk’s mound opponent.
“Weiker’s good,” Gantt said. “He just doesn’t rattle.”
But Baucom led off the Rowan first with a double, Weiker’s defense let him down, and Rowan put two on the board. In the third, Bowden doubled and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Bauk appeared to be tiring in the sixth when Rusty Brown’s triple and Chase Poplin’s sac fly broke the ice for Stanly, but Bauk found his second wind. He put up zeroes in the seventh and eighth and gave Rowan a chance to pull game away.
“Any time Brian is pitching, it’s a huge confidence-builder for us,” Bowden said. “But we knew three runs was not enough, and we knew we had to try to get some more against Wieker and try to get into their bullpen.”
Rowan gave Bauk some breathing room with a three-run seventh.
Baucom and Chase Hathcock got on base to start it. Bowden singled home a run, and then two scored when Hunter Brooks hammered a pitch into center.
Hits by Baucom, Bowden and Riley Myers produced a pile-on, three-run eighth against Stanly’s bullpen.
On the day, Bowden went 5-for-7 with three walks. He’s batting a team-best .447 and also leads the team with 14 doubles and 24 RBIs.
“Chance also made a catch on a foul popup that was as good a play as anyone made all day,” Gantt added.
Brandon White pitched a scoreless ninth, and even on a day when the injury bug bit, there were more pluses than minuses for a surging team that’s won seven in a row.
“This was a positive day moving forward,’ Fulbright said. “We found out we could hit some good pitching.”