From staff reports
Catawba plays Florida Tech tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the South Regional baseball tournament.
Fourth-seeded Florida Tech (35-18-1) has a player named Mike Piazza. Fortunately, he’s a pitcher, not a homer-hitting catcher.
Third-seeded Catawba (40-16) has a huge advantage in power, even when you factor in the cozy dimensions the Indians have often enjoyed at Newman Park. Florida Tech has hit 33 homers as a team, while Catawba outfielders Jerry Sands and David Thomas have combined for 43.
Thomas and Sands are having extraordinary seasons that should make them draft picks next month. Both have reached base in better than half their plate appearances. Sands has driven in 80 runs, while Thomas has knocked in 57 and stolen 22 bases.
East Rowan product Craige Lyerly has been a force at third base. The sophomore is batting .376 with 12 homers, 64 RBIs and 25 steals.
Former A.L. Brown catcher Ryan Query, a junior, is batting .369 with 43 RBIs.
Second baseman Chad Baker (.364), left fielder Matt Kepley (.317), shortstop Chris Ahearn (.303) and first baseman and North Rowan grad Bubba Morris (.278) are other fixtures in the lineup.
Former North catcher Kevin McMillan (.281) and former West Rowan star Brett Hatley (.367) may also play key roles in the regional. West products Zeb Link (.271) and Weston Church (.212) could get opportunities.
Former Northwest Cabarrus standout Blake Ketner (8-3, 3.16 ERA), Tim Smith (6-2, 3.07) and Alex Fairweather (7-2, 3.95) lead the mound corps. Matt Seabolt, Nathan Furr and Hatley have combined for nine saves.
Outfielder Nick Brennan leads Florida Tech with a .342 batting average. Jake Koch (8-3), Matt Schurig (7-2), 6-foot-6 Andrew Buonanni (4-4) and Piazza (5-3) have been workhorses on the mound for the Panthers. The Panthers have good team speed. They have three players with 17 steals each and three more in double figures.
If Catawba loses, it will play in an 11 a.m. elimination game on Friday. If it wins, it will play at 3 p.m. on Friday.
WSAT-1280 will carry all the Catawba games.
* Sands and Thomas were named first-team All-South Region players on Wednesday.
Tusculum second baseman Maikol Gonzalez was named South Region Player of the Year. Florida Tech’s Schurig, who could be on the mound tonight against Catawba, was named to the All-South Region team.
– Erwin clinches baseball title
Erwin’s baseball team clinched the Rowan Middle School Conference regular-season championship with a 7-3 victory over China Grove on Wednesday.
The Eagles (12-1) got a great pitching performance from Bradley Robbins, who struck out 12 hitters.
Robbins, Curtis Ward, Gavin Wike and Jared Mathis had two hits each for Erwin. Josh Martin had two hits for the Red Devils (9-3).
China Grove, the 2007 champ, handed Erwin its only loss so far this season. Craig Thomas coached Erwin to its latest championship.
* Earlier this week, China Grove beat Knox 16-7. Connor Bridges was the winning pitcher. Ben Gragg also saw mound duty for the Red Devils. Bobby Richards, Mitch Galloway and Martin had two hits each.
Erwin will be the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament that starts on May 27 at China Grove.
– Minor leagues
In the small-world category, former East Rowan standout Bobby Parnell and former A.L. Brown star Zach Ward were briefly mound opponents in a Double-A Eastern League game on Tuesday night.
Binghamton’s Parnell hurled seven innings and was the winning pitcher in a 4-2 victory against New Britain. Parnell (3-2) won his third straight decision after an 0-2 start. He allowed five hits and two runs and struck out three.
Ward entered the game in relief in the seventh and didn’t allow a hit or run in 12/3 innings. Ward’s ERA is down to 0.36.
Parnell’s Mustangs and Ward’s Wonders shared the NPC championship in 2002.
* Beloit reliever Spencer Steedley (East) was credited with the win in a 7-5 Midwest League victory over Clinton on Tuesday. Steedley (2-1) struck out two in 12/3 scoreless innings. His ERA dipped to 1.54.
* Toledo starting pitcher Jeremy Johnson (Mooresville) lost for the first time this season when the Mud Hens fell to Durham 5-3 on Tuesday.
Johnson (4-1) allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings.
– Intimidators win again
The Kannapolis Intimidators beat Delmarva 5-3 on Wednesday at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium.
Joe Persichina delivered a single to plate Jose Martinez with the decisive run.
Johnnie Lowe gave up one earned run in five innings. Picking up the win was Santo Luis (4-2). Henry Mabee notched his eighth save. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and stranded two more Shorebirds in the ninth.
The Intimidators go for a series sweep tonight.
– Prep football combine
West Rowan’s K.P. Parks, Chris Smith, Timmy Pangburn and Marco Gupton participated in the Under Armour/Scout.com Combine in Charlotte on Saturday, along with A.L. Brown’s Dwayne Stroud and Davie’s Perry James and James Mayfield.
Smith, a 217-pound defensive end, ran 4.81 in the 40, had a vertical jump of 29 inches and posted a standing broad jump of 9-1.
– Southeast, Knox tie in soccer
Jordy Sanchez scored both goals for Southeast in a 2-2 deadlock with Knox’s soccer team on Wednesday.
Agustin Dias had an assist for the Patriots.
Southeast finishes the regular season against Erwin.
– College baseball
Davidson’s Brett Shore (South Rowan) scored twice in a 9-5 victory over UNC Greensboro on Wednesday.