Legion baseball: Rowan 12, Stanly 8
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Spectators attending Rowan County’s Monday night game at Newman Park can expect a thank-you card from Jim Gantt.
The 12th-year coach gave credit where credit was due after RC rallied for an unlikely 12-8 win over Stanly County.
“Our fans helped us tonight,” Gantt said after second-place Rowan (14-6, 10-4) kept pace in the crowded Southern Division standings. “That’s what changed the game, not the mood in our dugout. Our fans, they wouldn’t let us quit. They never do.”
And Rowan certainly had reason to go in the tank after falling behind 6-0 before a Stanly batter had been retired. The guests used a fielding error, a botched pickoff play, two run-scoring singles and Kevin Van Asch’s towering three-run homer to put starting pitcher Matt Laurens in a deep hole.
“Yeah, but between us and the crowd, nobody gave up,” outfielder Matt Mauldin said. “They’re a good-hitting team. Sometimes, even when you’re hitting your spots, they’re still gonna crush the ball.”
It’s a good thing Laurens wasn’t in the real estate business. His location, as good as it was, was terrible. “Just an off-night for him,” said Rowan catcher Nathan Fulbright. “Wherever he threw the ball, they hit it.”
Give Laurens, a sneaky-quick southpaw, the silver star for perseverance. After allowing Van Asch’s bomb into the woods beyond the left-field wall, he settled down and worked patiently and effectively through the fifth inning.
“We were dead in the water early,” Gantt said. “But Matt Laurens did an outstanding job of getting us to the sixth. That was important. Guys that age, it’s easy for them to just fold up shop and start looking to the bullpen. But he got us through on a night when we couldn’t afford to go to the bullpen that early, with all these games coming up.”
Rowan trailed 8-2 when 6-foot-5 righthander Caleb Henley spelled Laurens in the top of the sixth. The reliever out of UNC-Greensboro turned off the spigot, smoothed the edges and provided three innings of scoreless relief.
“He looked really confident out there,” Stanly coach Derek Baringer said after Post 76 (9-7) fell to 8-7 in league play. “He’s an impressive-looking kid. You can tell he’s got a clue about what he’s doing.”
He had more than that. Henley allowed only one hit — to Drew Cole, the first batter he faced — and, despite some wildness, pitched out three minor jams.
“He came in dealing,” Fulbright reported. “Everything he threw was keeping them off-balance. Even when they did hit it, it was just soft grounders.”
Henley also gave Rowan a fighting chance to get back in the game. A four-run fifth inning against Stanly starter Matt Lisk featured Andy Austin’s two-out RBI double off the wall and Fulbright’s run-scoring hit to left. When Mauldin (3-for-5, four RBIs) lined a two-run single to left RC had inched within 8-6.
“It doesn’t what the score is or what the situation is,” said Mauldin. “You still have to hit the ball. This team likes pressure. We came in here, took the right pitches and hit the ball where we were supposed to.”
In the seventh Taylor Garczynski chopped an RBI triple down the right-field line and Mauldin greeted reliever J.P. Lisk with a double into the left-field corner.
It was Fulbright who brought Rowan from six-feet-under to three runs up an inning later when he whipped a two-run double off the Memories 1280 sign in deep left field.
“You know what this says?” Fulbright offered afterward. “It says as long as the last out hasn’t been made, we’re not giving up. With this team, with these fans, we always know we’ve got a chance.”
NOTES: Fulbright went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. … Garczynski, RC’s right-fielder, made three nice catches on hard-hit balls by Van Asch. … Rowan plays the fourth of six consecutive home games when Kannapolis visits tonight.