By Marny Hendrick
SALISBURY — The Salisbury Hornets ended a five year playoff win drought with a flourish Friday night in the opening round of the state 2A baseball play-offs.
Senior pitcher Brian Bauk fanned 12 and Chance Bowden drove in three runs as the Hornets cruised past the Starmount Rams, 7-1 at Robertson Stadium.
A balanced offensive attack and solid defense throughout the game were keys to the win for Salisbury (13-11), the second seed out of the Central Carolina Conference. Starmount from Yadkin County, came in as the third seed in the Mountain Valley Conference and ended its season at 8-16.
“Brian pitched well, our defense was solid tonight and we got some timely hits tonight that we haven’t been getting lately,” Hornet coach Scott Maddox stated. “ I gotta be happy with the way we played tonight to open the playoffs because we have not played well lately.”
The Rams sent big righthander Tanner Mathis (2-0), a Pfeiffer recruit, to the mound to start but Salisbury figured him out early with two runs and four hits in the first inning. Riley Myers led off with a double, Bauk had a bunt single then Bowden brought them both in with a single up the middle. Bowden also created a run in the third with a single followed by two wild pitches to make it 3-0.
Starmount scratched out a run in the top of the fifth on a Sawyer Davis double and a Mathis single but Salisbury responded behind Bowden again in the bottom half with three more runs that iced it.
Bowden was fooled badly by a Mathis curve ball but when he got the exact same pitch again, he jacked it into the left field corner for an RBI double.
“The pitch before, he got me to bend out of the way so I knew it was coming again.” Bowden stated. “I just tried to stay back as long as I could and make good contact.”
Bowden then scored on an outfield error and Scott Friedrich poked an RBI single to left to make the score 6-1. They added one more in the sixth on Parker McKeithan’s sacrifice fly to center.
In the meantime, Bauk was mowing down Ram batters, staying ahead in the count and using his defense to keep the visitors off guard all night.
“They were making good contact but it was right at us,” Bauk said as he improved to 2-4. “As long as we play defense we can be successful.” He added that he was unaware of his 12 strikeouts but said it didn’t matter, “as long as we win.”
For the game, Bauk allowed seven hits, walked only one and lowered his ERA down close to 1.00.
“Bauk was the difference and really did a good job for them tonight”, Rams coach Mike McCann said. “They also did a good job of hitting up and down the line-up. We just never could respond.”
Although the Hornets did most of their damage with the top of their lineup , five of their 11 hits came from the last four spots in the order. Bowden was 3-for-4 with his three RBI’s, Bauk had two bunt singles and two stolen bases while Friedrich had a pair of singles and one RBI.
Starmount had seven different players get a hit with Davis having the only double.
Salisbury now has to hit the road for their second round West 2A contest. Piedmont (23-2), the top seed in the Rocky River, edged Wheatmore 3-1 Friday and will host the Hornets Tuesday. Piedmont knocked Salisbury out in the first round last season.
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