Prep baseball: North's Mauldin to Catawba
By Mike London
SALISBURY — When you’ve been hot at the plate for two years, it can no longer be considered a fluke.
Rowan County left fielder had another huge game Monday in a comeback win at Newman Park against Stanly County, checking in with three hits and four RBIs.
Mauldin is now batting .365, second on the team to shortstop Justin Morris, but he shrugs and says there’s still room for improvement.
“If you’re not batting 1.000, you can still get better,” he said. “Anything less is not good enough.”
The North Rowan graduate will play baseball at Catawba next season, and he’ll have a chance to keep getting better for coach Jim Gantt, who also guides the Rowan Legion team.
“Matt has speed (6.7-6.8 in the 60) and when you have speed as a tool, it’s hard to go into a slump,” Gantt said. “He’s got some ability, plus the desire to get better. His parents are driven people. Some of that’s rubbed off on him.”
North Rowan coach Aaron Rimer believes Mauldin, who is 6-foot-1, could eventually shift to first base for the Indians. Rimer made that switch at the college level.
“We’ll just have to see how it works out for him with the glove, but I have no doubt Matt can hit,” Rimer said. “Some people think of him as a 1A hitter, but he’s not just a 1A hitter. He’s a hitter — period. As a hitter, he’s as good as they come.”
Rimer said the key fundamental that Mauldin has mastered is keeping his head still on every swing.
“His head never moves,” Rimer said. “That’s going to translate very well for him at the next level.”
As a junior, Mauldin led the Cavaliers with a .478 batting average and 25 RBIs.
His offensive numbers from his last two high school seasons — as far as runs, hits, RBIs, doubles and steals — stack up with about any in North history, but he was clearly even better as a senior than he was as a junior.
“I did a lot of work between those seasons,” Mauldin said. “I was determined to improve, mostly because I wanted to get better for my teammates and to help my team. I knew we had a lot of talent, and I wanted to do everything I could.”
North went 22-7 and shared the YVC title with 1A runner-up South Stanly.
Mauldin was in the middle of every offensive explosion. He had hits in 26 of North’s 29 games and compiled a 17-game hitting streak. In one stretch from late-March to mid-April, he put up eight consecutive multi-hit games.
Twice, he enjoyed four-hit nights. Six times, he drove in three or more runs.
Voted North’s player of the year, he finished his banner season with county-highs for hits (48), RBIs (41) and batting average (.522). He also walked 12 times to lift his on-base percentage to .568, and he was 14-for-14 stealing bases.
Mauldin was the first Cavalier to bat .500 since Rimer swatted .507 in 2001, and his career average of .442 is the best of any North player who has graduated in this century.
College coaches are naturally skeptical of 1A statistics, but Mauldin’s wheels and bat drew recruiting interest. Carson-Newman, Pfeiffer and Wingate topped his list at different times, but Mauldin elected to stay close to home and attend the same school where his parents, Mark and Corrine, went.
“It came down to me knowing Coach Gantt and him knowing me,” Mauldin said. “He’s already coaching me this summer with the Legion team, and it does make me feel good he wants me playing for him in college.”
While Mauldin has hit consistently this summer, it’s his defense where he’s obviously making strides. Not just nice running catches but throwing runners out on the bases.
“Coach Gantt and Coach (Seth) Graham have worked with me a lot,” Mauldin said. “I’ve learned a lot about taking better angles on flyballs.”
Mauldin wants his post-baseball career to head in the direction of physical therapist or mechanical engineer.
Both his parents have been deeply immersed in the racing world. His father is coordinator of the pit crew and race day operations for the No. 5 and No. 24 cars at Hendrick Motorsports.
Matt has done one summer racing internship. Part of it was sweeping floors, but he also got to build shocks and work on suspensions.
“It was good, real-world experience,” Mauldin said.
Mauldin’s real-world experience with college baseball is coming soon. Many are looking forward to it.
“Matt will surprise people,” Rimer predicted. “He’s got all the tools to be good.”