Peeler Classic: North Rowan 12, Central Cabarrus 10: Laurens hits two homers
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Rowan coach Aaron Rimer watched a familiar story unfold in the first round of the Clff Peeler Baseball Classic.
North kicked it around like nine Pelés, but the Cavaliers compensated for their defensive struggles with noisy bats. Matt Laurens went 4-for-4, belted two homers and drove in six runs in an exciting 12-10 victory against 3A Central Cabarrus.
Laurens’ three-run homer, a no-doubt-about-it rocket to right-center in the sixth was the decisive blow.
“I’m just a lot more relaxed now than I was,” said Laurens, who is headed to Catawba. “I’m just seeing the ball better. On that homer, all I was trying to do was get a base hit, but it went.”
Josh Price, who had a great relief effort for his fourth win, and Matt Mauldin, who produced four great at-bats in a row, were the other heroes for North (15-4).
“We were just a little dead at the start,” Mauldin said. “But we got into it about the third inning and started to hit. It’s a situation we’ve been in a few times before.”
Rimer planned for Price to pitch some, but he was hoping to make the call to the bullpen in the fourth or fifth.
Instead, Price was warming up in the first and took the mound in the second. North starting pitcher Mason Jennings walked three in the first two innings. All three scored, as the defense collapsed behind him.
North trailed 6-2 after 11/2 innings, but then Price started putting zeroes on the scoreboard. That gave North a chance to fight back.
“Just a great job by Josh,” Rimer said. “The thing about him is he’s not going to let us play dead. He’s not going to stand for it. He woke us up, and we realized we had to play.”
Central (9-11) had freshman Andrew Burgesser on the mound. His talent was obvious, but so was his age. He got hurt when he was ahead in the count a few times, as did reliever Ryan Yoder, who started the game as the Vikings’ catcher.
“There were at least three key situations where we had a guy down 0-2, missed a spot, and they got a big hit,” Central coach Jim Knight said. “In that count, there’s no way the ball gets hit that hard unless the pitch is right down the middle.”
After the Vikings scored four times in a disastrous top of the first, the Cavaliers quickly got two back on an RBI groundout by Wes Barker and a sacrifice fly by Mauldin.
Brandon Porter lashed a two-run double in the second for a 6-2 Central lead, but Laurens made it 6-4 when he followed an infield hit with a two-run blast to right-center.
Price shut out Central in the third, fourth and fifth, and Dakota Brown’s RBI single — his third hit of the game — got North even at 6-6 in the fifth.
North briefly led 7-6, but Price finally tired in the sixth inning and the Vikings strung together three singles, two errors, a walk and a sac fly for four runs and a 10-7 lead.
Mauldin, who entered the game batting .556, managed to climb to .571, and that’s not an easy thing to do. His two-run single in the sixth was huge, slicing the three-run deficit down to 10-9. After Alex Morgan singled to put two men on, Laurens ripped his second homer to put the Cavaliers in front.
“I don’t know where all that power’s coming from with Laurens,” Mauldin said. “But he’s smashing it, and we’re proud of him.”
Brown pitched the seventh and closed it with the help of a nice running catch in foul territory by Hunter Feezor. Barker calmly fielded a grounder at short for the final out and North owned another comeback win.
“If they can play, they make you pay when your pitcher makes a mistake, and North’s got some kids that really want to hit,” Knight said. “They made us pay.”
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