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Legion Baseball: Rowan 4, Mocksville 2

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — There was nothing wrong with Rowan County’s American Legion team that Dr. Matt Laurens couldn’t cure.
Laurens threw left-handed pills to first-place Mocksville, hurled seven stout innings and keyed a 4-2 Rowan victory on Monday at Newman Park that tightened up the Southern Division standings quite a bit.
“When you’ve lost two in a row, it’s your starting pitcher that has to get you out of a slump,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “We didn’t get many hits, but we did get a couple of crucial ones tonight. The way Laurens was pitching, a couple was enough. He was outstanding. He just kept doing it.”
Mocksville’s 3-4-5 hitters — Tyler Jordan, Joe Watson and Connor Bodenhamer are all batting over .350 — but Laurens kept that firepower quiet until Bodenhamer rocketed a homer to left leading off the seventh.
“I just tried to get ahead of everybody and throw strikes and try not to get rattled,” said Laurens, who worked briskly and efficiently. “The home run came on a fastball that I left up, but I guess I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. They have a great lineup.”
Rowan avenged an ugly 13-3 loss to Mocksville at Rich Park early in the season.
“They got us, so we needed a win to get back at them,” Rowan catcher Nathan Fulbright said. “The way Laurens was pitching made that a lot easier to do. He had all his stuff, and I just sat back and watched him work.”
Rowan (10-4, 7-3) was held to six hits by Mocksville hurlers Watson and Zach Long, but two were timely. Justin Morris’ two-out, two-run single in the sixth made the difference. It gave Rowan a 4-0 lead, and the home team hung on in front of a happy, vocal crowd.
Laurens opened with strikeouts of Alex Newman and Javan Phillips and sat back down after a top-of-the first that lasted three minutes.
Rowan has scored first-inning runs in nine of its last 10 games and scratched one against Watson with the aid of two hit batsmen and a walk. With two men out and the bases full, Matt Mauldin smacked a fastball back up the middle for a 1-0 lead.
After that, it was on Laurens’ shoulders for a long time. He pitched around an error in the second and got help in the fourth inning from Mauldin, the left fielder, who threw out Watson at second base after his towering, leadoff drive off the wall.
“Laurens was awesome,” Rowan first baseman Andy Austin said. “All the credit goes to him. His last few games he’s been shoving it pretty good.”
When Rowan’s first three hitters reached in the sixth, Long relieved Watson. Long quickly got two called strikeouts, and Mocksville was on the verge of escaping the jam, but then Sapp walked on a 3-2 curveball in the dirt.
“No one was expecting a curve on that pitch and an average hitter might’ve jumped at it,” Austin said. “But not Sapp. He works a lot on those situations.”
Morris followed with his two-run single, and it was 4-0.
“Morris’ hit took all the nerves away,” Laurens said.
Bodenhamer’s no-doubt-about-it homer cut the gap to 4-1, but Laurens finished his seven sharp frames with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Mocksville (7-5, 6-1) had reliever Zack Simpson in some trouble in the eighth after a walk and an infield hit started the inning, but he limited the damage to one run.
Will Johnson entered in the ninth and earned a save.
“With Watson pitching we knew this would be a tough matchup,” Austin said. “But we came out with our minds clear and played a good baseball game.”

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