South 8, Rowan 4
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Glove extended as far as he could reach, South Rowan center fielder Ryan Bostian crashed into a fence full-speed and face-first to rob Trey Holmes of a home run.
The all-out effort symbolized South’s best game of the summer. In a regular-season finale, South sprinted to an 8-4 victory over visiting Rowan, which never got out of the blocks emotionally.
“I got hit in the nose last night when I was pitching, and I jammed the side of my face into the fence tonight on that catch,” Bostian said with a weary smile. “It’s given me a headache, but it’s what we’ve got to do right now.”
South won for only the sixth time in 30 meetings with the traditional powerhouse.
“You’ve got to give South credit,” said Rowan shortstop Justin Roland, who smacked the 45th double of his fine career. “They got some momentum when they beat Mooresville Wednesday night, and they fed off that.”
South (15-10, 11-7) clinched fourth in the division, and it is also fired-up about the voting for the Area III All-Star Game. South has only one representative, pitcher Randy Shepherd, although many players are enjoying outstanding summers. “We’re all a little ticked off about the all-stars,” Bostian said. “Now we’ve really got something to prove, but mostly we want to go out and prove something to ourselves.”
When Bostian wheeled into the school lot, teammate Walker Snow was acting as a parking valet. He instructed South players to form a circle with their vehicles in a classic circle-the-wagons, us-against-the-world gesture.
“When Coach (David) Wright told us about the all-star vote, I think we all felt like we’d been slapped right in the face,” South right fielder Caleb Shore said.South, especially No. 8 hitter Scott Ashby and No. 9 hitter Joseph Basinger, took out the frustration on baseballs.
Ashby’s RBI double, a run-scoring wild pitch and Basinger’s two-run homer off Billy Veal gave South a 4-0 lead in the second.
South’s lead swelled to 7-0 in the third when Weston Church and Snow singled and Ashby unloaded a two-out homer to left to knock out Veal.
“There’s a short porch to left here, so you’ve got to locate pitches,” Rowan County coach Jim Gantt said. “We didn’t.”
It was all but over after three innings with Shepherd, who will likely commit to Appalachian State soon, on the mound.
He got 11 outs on groundballs and blanked third-place Rowan (20-8, 12-6) until the sixth, when Zach Smith drove home Noah Holmes and Russ Michalec with a double.
But Shepherd got two key outs to strand runners at second and third in that inning, and Rowan missed its best chance to get back in the game.”I haven’t pitched much lately because I’ve been trying to get my arm to recover,” Shepherd said. “I’ve been running a lot and working on my pitches. I felt like tonight I was back to full strength, with everything working, for the first time in a long time.”
Roland had praise for the way Shepherd “mixed his pitches.” He threw mostly fastballs, but he was also getting his curve and changeup over for strikes.
Cameron Park, who worked nine innings Monday to beat Stanly 2-1, threw the last three innings for South. The finesse lefty had success following Shepherd, a power right-hander.Park limited Rowan to an unearned run in the eighth and a Noah Holmes solo homer with two outs in the ninth.
Maverick Miles’ long homer in the seventh finished South’s scoring.
“I’m real pleased with this one,” Wright said. “Great pitching, great defense, and the hitting, especially from those guys at the bottom of the order, was very timely.”
Rowan opens the playoffs at home against Mocksville on Monday, and Gantt will be looking for more than his team showed against South.
“South wanted it more than we did, and that’s a concern,” he said. “When you get out-competed, it bothers you.”
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