Legion Baseball: South Rowan 3, Concord 1
By Mike London
CONCORD ó South Rowan catcher Joseph Basinger gloved a wicked breaking ball from pitcher Weston Church, whipped off his mask and punched the air with his right fist.
Before a grinning Church could descend from the mound, South players and coaches were pouring from the dugout to congratulate him on a sparkling two-hitter that closed out a tense, wet, first-round series.
Church, a rising sophomore at Catawba, raised his record to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.69. He struck out six and walked one in the seven-inning contest.
“Weston pitched as well as I’ve seen him pitch since he was a senior in high school at West Rowan,” South coach David Wright said. “He was focused.”
Fourth-seeded South won 3-1 ó both the game and the series ó and advances to play top-seeded Lexington in a series that begins tonight at Holt-Moffitt Field.
Early in Saturday afternoon’s game, Church got flyballs with curves and changeups. Then he shifted gears and started getting groundouts with fastballs.
“I threw a lot of fastballs in curveball counts the last few innings,” Church said. “I felt the best I’ve felt in a while, and all three of my pitches were working.”
Concord’s home field at Central Cabarrus High is a hitter’s paradise, but Church and Concord’s Colby Bartlett staged a pitchers’ duel. South (18-11) trailed 1-0 after five innings.
“Some of the deep flyballs that were hit this afternoon would have gone out of here in a night game,” Concord coach Ron Bost said. “But the air was really heavy and we had a little breeze blowing in.”
Bartlett, a lefty, frustrated hitters with offspeed pitches, and when South stranded runners at second and third in both the second and fifth innings it was in serious trouble.
“He had a curveball and a knuckleball,” South second baseman Maverick Miles said. “We really had a hard time getting to him.”
Concord (13-14) broke through in the fourth on a hit batsman, a stolen base, a passed ball and an infield roller. Church jammed Michael Tancini with two out and a runner at third, but the ball trickled through the thick infield grass, and Tancini beat Miles’ off-balance throw to first as Dylan Fulk scored.
Matt Ingold had an adventurous trip around the bases to knot the game in the sixth. He led off with a bunt single. He was picked off but advanced to second when no one covered the bag. Concord had a great shot at getting Ingold again when he stole third, but he slid in safely under a high throw.
With the infield drawn in with one out, Randy Shepherd singled sharply past the third baseman to make it 1-1.
A diving play by Miles prevented Concord from scoring in the bottom of the sixth. Garrett Furr lashed a crisp, two-out grounder with a runner at second base, but Miles somehow kept the ball in front of him and got the out at first.
Scott Ashby’s walk and Ivan Corriher’s sacrifice bunt set the table for South to score the decisive runs in the seventh.
With two strikes, Ryan Bostian doubled down the left-field line for a 2-1 lead. After Caleb Shore’s infield hit, Miles singled to left for insurance.
“The third time through the lineup we finally hit that guy,” Bostian said. “We were all on him in the seventh.”
The bottom of the seventh was eventful as an error and a hit batsman gave Concord two baserunners with one out.
Third baseman Brett Huffman made a terrific, charging barehand play on a swinging bunt to get the second out, and Church struck out dangerous Shane Reedy to end the series.