By Mike London
LEXINGTON — A new Superman movie is coming to a theater near you in June, and Rowan County fans got a sneak preview on Sunday at Holt-Moffitt Field.
When Davidson County’s Braxton Shetley smoked a line drive toward the left-center gap in the bottom of the eighth with two teammates on base, probably the hardest-hit ball all night — Rowan center fielder Clark Kent, er … make that Brian Bauk — didn’t run after it, he flew after it.
A normal human had no chance — the only question was whether Shetley’s laser would be a two-run double or a two-run triple — but Bauk, faster than a speeding bullet, has few normal bones and muscles in his body.
“Superman,” said Rowan pitcher Ryan Jones, Bauk’s Salisbury High teammate after a 6-2 win. “He laid out for it like Superman, and he got it. When we played in Florida, I saw him make that same play. Exactly that same play.”
An airborne Bauk gloved the missile an inch or so off the ground, tumbled and slid across the grass and held on. Then he was back on his feet, firing the ball back to the infield for a rally-killing double play, as Davidson County baserunners grabbed their helmets in disbelief.
“It was just a dive, more of a fall, really, than anything,” Bauk explained with super-modesty. “Shetley hit a seed, a shot, but I was glad to do something to help us out because I didn’t do jack at the plate.”
Bauk was 0-for-4. Davidson’s Justin Freeman, a West Davidson lefty Bauk faced often in the CCC, apparently rubbed kryptonite on the ball as he pitched to the Man of Steel.
“I can’t figure that guy out,” Bauk said with a sigh. “Fortunately, some other guys had good swings at him.”
Those good swings started early. Ashton Fleming, Chance Bowden and Hunter Brooks blistered the walls as Rowan (3-1) got two runs in the first.
Brooks nearly hit his loud double over the elevated well in left field.
“I was looking first-pitch fastball, and I squared it up and did what I wanted to do with it,” Brooks said.
Rowan again used a committee of pitchers — by choice, not necessity.
Connor Johnson allowed an unearned run but fired three hitless innings. Heath Mitchem (1-0) worked two innings and got a groundball from cleanup man Chase Mitchell to end the fifth with the bases loaded. Justin Evans worked a breezy sixth and was nicked for a run in the seventh. Then Bauk rescued Evans in the eighth.
“Bauk’s catch was the biggest deciding factor,” said Wade Moore, who teamed with Brett Underwood to pilot the team in Jim Gantt’s absence. “That ball is hit, and we’re thinking 5-2 has just turned into 5-4. One of the best catches that you’ll ever see.”
Taylor Garczynski’s RBI triple to center in the seventh gave Rowan a 3-1 lead. Rowan’s edge was 3-2 in the eighth when Ike Freeman got a chance to hit after Davidson (1-4) messed up a double-play ball, and he delivered the two-run single that made it 5-2. Chase Hathcock’s RBI double in the ninth made it 6-2. Then Jones closed Rowan’s third straight win.
“When we started the season, the big question was how good our pitching was going to be,” Moore said. “But the guys really bowed their backs again tonight. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how they pitched in some very tough situations.”
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