Legion Baseball Playoffs: Rowan 11, High Point 5: Rowan forces a Game 4 tonight at Newman Park
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Mike London
THOMASVILLE — Lots of guys had their moments, but it was Nathan Fulbright who made sure there would be baseball at Newman Park tonight.
Rowan trails a best-of-five series with High Point 2-1, but it’s still very much alive. Fulbright’s clutch, bases-loaded single in the eighth inning was the momentum-changer that secured Rowan’s 11-5 victory against High Point at soggy Finch Field on Thursday.
“That wasn’t just the biggest hit of the night, it was the biggest hit we’ve had all year,” relieved Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “When Fulbright got that hit, you could just hear everyone relax.”
Rowan (19-19) jumped ahead early, but High Point’s three-run seventh sliced a 5-1 deficit to 5-4.
Rowan desperately needed to answer in the eighth, and Will Sapp’s bunt single, winning pitcher Brian Bauk’s double to the fence in right and an intentional pass to Ashton Fleming set the table for Fulbright.
It made plenty of sense for High Point coach Rob Shore to walk Fleming to pitch to Fulbright with right-hander Mitch Carstens on the mound and runners perched at second and third. Fleming is a lefty, Fleming runs faster than Fulbright, and Fleming has been the hotter hitter.
Fulbright had a magnificent high school season, but Legion ball has been a tussle with the .200 mark.
But this time he came through against a tough reliever who had finished both of High Point’s wins in the series. Fulbright’s clean shot up the middle plated two, and it was 7-4.
“When they walk a guy to pitch to you, it pumps you up,” Fulbright said. “I’m not going to say it made me more focused, but it really did give me some drive.”
Rowan wasn’t done. Avery Rogers tacked on an RBI single and Chase Hathcock slapped a two-run single before the inning ended. That made it 10-4, and that was the ballgame.
“We got the two-out hits tonight, and when you get two-out hits you can score a lot of runs,” Gantt said. “And it wasn’t like they were just flares. We hit a lot of balls hard.”
Rowan had 17 hits, with three each by Bauk, Rogers and Fulbright.
With two down in the first, Rowan scored four runs on RBI singles by Justin Evans and Jared Mathis and a two-run triple to right by Rogers.
“I really thought I was gonna score (on an inside-the-park homer), but Coach stopped me,” said a cheerful Rogers, who always thinks big. “They were keeping it outside on me, so I just went with the pitch.”
With all those runs to work with, Bauk dominated, changing speeds and working both sides of the plate. He took a one-hitter to the seventh, but that’s when High Point (25-6) got to him for three hits and two walks. David Newcomer’s two-run single cut Rowan’s lead to 5-3, and Gantt called Alex Bost from the bullpen with the bases loaded, one out, and Victor Zecca who is as dangerous as any High Point hitter, at the plate.
“Coach Gantt told me I could allow one, but we couldn’t let them tie it,” Bost said. “I had to limit them to just one run and hold the lead.”
Zecca bounced into a fielder’s choice. It scored a run, but Rowan still led 5-4. Then Bost induced a groundball off the bat of Chris Ferrante, and Fleming threw him from shortstop to end the inning.
Rowan’s five-run eighth blew it open, and then Bost struck out the side in the bottom of the inning.
High Point still went down fighting. It had three hits in the ninth against Ethan Free, and its loss wasn’t official until Bauk pulled in Ferrante’s long drive to the bank in left field to end the game.