SALISBURY — Rowan County fielded more efficiently and ran the bases with more focus, and the little things added up to a big 6-2 win against Southern Rowan in a much anticipated matchup at Newman Park on Saturday.
Rowan right-hander Brian Bauk (2-0) went all nine innings to outlast Southern righty Dillon Parker (1-1), who worked into the bottom of the eighth in the first league game for both squads.
“They just made a couple of mistakes on the bases and in the field, and we played great defense,” Bauk said. “That was the difference.”
Chase Hathcock’s two-run, opposite-field triple in the eighth — after South failed to field a double-play grounder that would’ve ended the inning — was the decisive blow.
“Parker did a great job on the mound for them, and we were kinda fortunate and kinda lucky to win it,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Bauk has had a lot better stuff than he had tonight, but he’s just such a competitor. It could’ve easily have gone the other way, but he hung in there, and we were able to win.”
Ashton Fleming started the bottom of the first for Rowan with a double, one of his three hits, and a single and stolen base by Bauk put two men in scoring position.
When Chance Bowden slapped a chopper to the right side, Parker was tardy getting to first, first baseman John Daugherty’s throw sailed wide of Parker, and Rowan owned a 2-0 lead. That’s all Rowan (9-6, 1-0) would get until the eighth.
“It was a good battle, and we hung with them all the way, but our own mistakes bit us in the end,” Parker said. “We’ve got to eliminate the mental errors.”
SR (8-6, 0-1) made it 2-2 in the third when Tyler Fuller and Ben Gragg drew walks, Dylan Carpenter sacrificed, and Bryson Prugh rapped a two-run single to left. Fleming, Rowan’s shortstop got to the ball in the outfield grass, deep in the hole, but it kicked off the heel of his glove, and the game was tied.
It stayed 2-2 inning after inning, mostly because of SR’s baserunning.
“We had three picked off and another one ran into an out,” Southern coach Ben Hampton said. “Look, Rowan is a perennial power, and when you’re playing them at Newman Park, you can’t make as many mistakes as we did and expect to win.”
SR shortstop Parker Hubbard was solid, and right fielder Gragg and third baseman Connor Bridges made diving catches.
Prugh, Hubbard and Dylan Goodman had two hits each for Southern. Harrison Baucom and Hunter Brooks had two each for Rowan.
Bauk walked to start the eighth. Bowden crushed a pitch to center, a sign Parker was tiring, but Goodman climbed the wall to catch it.
When Nathan Fulbright grounded sharply at second baseman Jacob Fulton, it was a potential DP, but an error gave Hathcock his chance.
“Parker was pitching outstanding, but I fake-bunted on the first pitch, and that might have helped me get a good fastball to hit on the next one,” Hathcock said. “It was away, but I hit it hard.”
The liner sliced away from Gragg for a two-run triple, and Rowan led 4-2. Before the inning was over, Riley Myers had tripled and Brooks and Fleming had knocked in runs.
“Bauk just kept firing it in there and when they got hits he picked them off,” Fleming said. “He was great, and we helped out with timely hits.”
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