By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Rowan County’s 2013 American Legion team may be a few carats short of perfection, but it illuminated with brilliance Saturday night.
A well-played 3-2 victory over visiting Mocksville answered a number of important questions, beginning with the stability of its uncertain pitching staff.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” interim coach Wade Moore said after Rowan (2-1) received solid performances from four of the five pitchers it used. “That was one of things we didn’t exactly know about this team. Tonight, they came in and gave up four hits and two runs. Those are the kind of games you have to win.”
It was a quickly played game, completed in an hour and 50 minutes. Mocksville (1-4) was held hitless for the first six innings, its lineup shackled by RC righthanders Brian Bauk and Clint Veal. Bauk worked the first three, induced seven groundouts and benefited from the first of three Rowan double plays.
“It shows how good a pitcher (Bauk) is,” said Rowan catcher Nate Fullbright. “He was on a strict fastball/change-up regimen. It’s a testament to how good he can locate and change speeds with just two pitches.”
Veal, the winning pitcher, breezed through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and faced only nine batters. “He kept the ball down and kept it on the corners,” Fullbright said.
Mocksville also received strong pitching from starter Nick Boswell and reliever Nick Collins. Boswell went seven innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. Collins spun a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
“We got some pretty good pitching and defense tonight,” said losing coach Charles Kurfies. “We just didn’t hit the ball very well, but their pitchers aren’t going to make many mistakes.”
After Bauk retired Mocksville in order in the top of the first, Rowan scored its first two runs in the bottom half. Ashton Fleming lined a one-single into right field and alerty raced to second base when the ball was bobbled. Then Fullbright barrelled a run-scoring double into the left-field corner and advanced to third when Chance Bowden’s hard infield chop sailed into left. He scored RC’s second run on a line-drive sacrifice fly by Hunter Brooks.
“We just came out ready to play,” said Moore, who played collegiately at N.C. State and Catawba. “And that’s half the battle. Getting on the board early lets your pitchers relax.”
Rowan plated its final run in the last of the third. Again Fleming was the catalyst, serving a one-out single into left. He promptly stole second base and advanced to third when the throw riccochetted into the outfield, then scored when Brooks lofted his second sac fly of the game
It was then that Moore, possibly on orders from absent head coach Jim Gantt, went to his bullpen. Bowden, a southpaw, was sharp in the seventh inning despite allowing Mocksville’s first hit — Drew Weibley’s two-out double to the gap in left-center.
Left-hander Brandon White threw a perfect eighth inning before righthander Riley Myers was summoned to close it out. He did, but not before allowing Boswell’s base hit, Matt Vernon’s ground-ball double down the left field line and Tanner Mathis’ two-run single to center. It took a bit of well-conceived brainwork to get Weibley to bounce into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
“He’d been a dead-pull guy all night,” Fullbright explained.
Added Bowden, who crashed a loud double off the scoreboard in the fifth: “It got interesting, but we weren’t worried. Our pitchers threw strikes. That’s always a big plus.”