SALISBURY — Riley Myers was called out on a close play at the plate in the fifth, and Rowan County coach Jim Gantt briefly looked like he might throw a Gantt-trum, but he said his piece calmly and walked back to third base.
After two straight rainouts, Gantt and everyone else at Newman Park felt major tension for the first 6 1/2 innings on Thursday, but Rowan eventually 10-run-ruled Concord 15-5 with a tidal wave of walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen.
“It was a lot harder than the score looks like,” said Rowan hurler Brian Bauk, after the home team took a 1-0 lead in a best-of-five playoff series. “Concord hit it hard. Even their outs were hit hard. I think the reason we won was our defense made every possible play that could’ve been made.”
Other reasons were four RBIs by leadoff man Ashton Fleming, Taylor Garczynski’s four runs scored, and another complete game by Bauk (5-0), who was pitching more with guts than his fastball.
“Bauk didn’t have his velocity, and it might’ve been the layoff, but it was probably the humidity,” Gantt said. “You could see the pitchers were sucking wind, really sweating profusely with this humidity.”
Chase Hathcock had a monster game for Rowan (18-7) as a rally-starter. His three hits ignited a four-run fourth, a three-run fifth and a five-run eighth that ended the game early.
Concord’s Nick Coble brought serious gas to Newman Park and took a shutout and a 1-0 lead to the bottom of the fourth. That’s when Hathcock sent a loud double whistling off the left-field wall.
“Coble shut us down when he pitched in relief at Concord and the first time up tonight I couldn’t get the bat-head through the zone against him,” Hathcock said. “But leading off in the fourth, I finally timed him up.”
When Hathcock broke for third with one out, Rowan not only got a stolen base, it got a run on a high throw, and it was 1-1. It was 4-1 a few moments later after Fleming singled in a run and two more scored on wild pitches.
“Nick has some velocity, and his fastball has so much movement it can be hard for him to control it,” Concord coach Tommy Small said. “The mound here is high, and he was struggling to locate his pitches. Walks and wild pitches ended up beating us.”
Rowan scored nine runs on plays on which hitters didn’t have to swing the bat.
Four Concord pitchers walked 15 batters and plunked four more. Myers walked on his first four plate appearances before driving a two-run double in the eighth.
Besides leading early 1-0, Concord (8-14) took a 5-4 lead in the fifth when Parker Henderson slugged a grand slam.
Bauk had gotten Henderson out on his previous at-bat with a changeup, so Small told him to be looking for another one. Bauk offered a first-pitch changeup, left it up, and Henderson didn’t miss it.
After the homer, Dalen Helm and Coble ripped rockets off Bauk, but he was able to strand those two runners, and keep the deficit at 5-4.
“Bauk didn’t have his good stuff, but we still knew he was gonna compete,” Hathcock said. “That’s what you expect out of your No. 1 guy.”
Rowan regained control with a three-run fifth. Myers walked with the bases full for a 5-all tie, and Fleming’s two-run single put Rowan up to stay and knocked out Coble.
Bauk retired 11 of the last 12 he faced, and third baseman Hunter Brooks and first baseman Chance Bowden made great plays behind him.
“Bowden took a triple away (from Helm),” Small said. “Rowan was only ahead 7-5 then, and Coble was up next, so that was a huge play.”
NOTE: Game 2 is at Central Cabarrus tonight, with Game 3 Saturday at Newman Park.