Legion Baseball: South Rowan edges Concord
By Bret Strelow
LANDIS ó Weston Church joked that he might have to dodge flying peanut shells when he faces his old team Saturday night at Newman Park.
He has enjoyed several warm receptions in his first season with South Rowan.
Church, a Rowan County mainstay prior to his freshman year at Catawba College, drove in one run in each of his five at-bats Tuesday to help South’s American Legion squad collect an 11-9 home win against Concord.
Church wasn’t eligible to suit up again for Rowan because NCAA rules prohibit a player from competing for his college coach during the summer. Jim Gantt released Church to play for his former high school coach (West Rowan’s David Wright) on a rival team with many unfamiliar faces.
“It’s different, definitely, being on this side of things,” Church said. “They’re great teammates, and they’ve welcomed me well.”
Church, who went 4-for-5 and scored three times, hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give South (7-5, 4-2) an 11-7 lead.
Concord’s Cliff Hodges delivered a two-out, two-run double in the ninth ahead of Matt Hodges, who represented the tying run. Relief pitcher Alex Ingold induced a groundball to second base, and Maverick Miles threw to Church for the final out.Church appeared in 32 contests at Catawba but suffered a leg injury with one month left in the season. His five-RBI outing against Concord matched the combined production from his first five games with South.
“He adds a presence we lost with (former South standout Daniel) Wagner,” Wright said. “He’s still not swinging it as well as he’s capable of, even with five RBIs, from my perspective. I’ve seen better swings out of him, and his bat will get better.”
Caleb Shore scored on Church’s bad-hop base hit in the first inning, and Church broke a 1-1 tie with a run-scoring fielder’s choice in the third. Walker Snow and Ivan Corriher followed with RBI singles, and South led by at least two runs the rest of the way.
Church also had an RBI single in the fifth and an RBI double in the sixth.
“I struggled a little bit early, but I’m starting to come around with the bat,” he said. “My timing’s not there yet, but I feel like I’m right on the edge of being a good hitter like I’ve been.”
C.J. Neal started for South and picked up the win. He allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits in the first five innings, but Jeff Council belted a three-run homer in the sixth to pull Concord within 7-5.
Shore and Church hit back-to-back doubles to begin South’s half of the sixth, and Church scored on a groundout by Corriher.
Concord (4-3, 3-2) scratched twice in the seventh, and Miles’ third hit scored Matt Ingold in the bottom half of the inning. A pitcher retired the side without allowing a run only six times in 17 chances.
“I saw only about four goose eggs between the two teams,” Concord coach Ronnie Bost said. “It was not a good night for pitchers. There were a lot of errors and a lot of line drives.”
Concord committed three errors, and South’s six errors contributed to three unearned runs.
South had three errors Sunday in a 22-4 loss to Lexington.
“The summer’s a long summer, and every year we’ve went through funk periods,” Wright said. “We have to play better defensively, and we’ve missed some opportunities at the plate.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.