Legion Baseball: South Rowan 12, Wilkes 7
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Ryan Bostian broke South Rowan’s program record for runs, Zach Wright smoked the hardest ball of the summer into the parking lot, and sidearmer Will Misenheimer did his thing on the mound for six innings.
Still, the most significant part of South’s 12-7 victory over Wilkes County in the opener of a first-round playoff series, may have been its revised infield alignment.
On the first day of practice, when first-year South coach Michael Lowman told players to go to the position they hoped to play, there was one serious problem ó there was no one was standing at third base.
Lowman asked Julio Zubillaga, Carson’s second baseman, to play there this summer, and he’s done his best, but the throwing errors have accumulated steadily.
“That throw from third’s a lot different,” Zubillaga said. “I’m a lot more comfortable at second base.”
Zubillaga returned to second base Friday night. He made gold-glove plays and belted a home run. Matt Ingold, who has been the shortstop, had a great night as the new third baseman. Maverick Miles, who has been playing second base, switched to shortstop, his high school position. Miles handled everything that came his way and teamed with Zubillaga to turn two timely twin killings.
“It’s a change I’ve been hesitant to make, but Zubillaga’s arm has been hurting him a lot more than he’s let on,” Lowman said. “He was great tonight. That’s the most I’ve seen him smile in over a month.”
It was clear Zubillaga was having fun again, but second-seeded South (15-6) still had to fight for its life against No. 7 seed Wilkes (8-12).
There was serious doubt until Wright lashed a three-run homer in the eighth to change 8-6 to 11-6. It was a screamer, about 10 feet off the ground and traveling toward Gary’s Barbecue in a hurry.
“I saw the ball really well my first at-bat, but I just got under one,” said Wright, who entered the game as the DH in the sixth inning. “On the homer, I was sitting on a first-pitch fastball and took a pretty good swing at it.”
Wilkes starter Micah Bryan, a big lefty with a smooth delivery and a fastball in the 84 mph range, attracted radar-gun toting coaches from UNC, Liberty, Charlotte and Gardner-Webb, but South banged out 11 hits and had seven runs when Bryan left the mound in the fourth.
“Wilkes didn’t used to have much pitching, but you have to look at them now as a team that can beat you,” Bostian said. “I looked in the stands, saw all those scouts and said, ‘Dang, this pitcher must be good.’ He did all right, but we did a good job on offense.”
South scored at least one run each of the first five innings. Ingold had a key two-out, two-run single in the first to wipe out a 1-0 Wilkes lead.
Tyler Freeze, who had three hits, scored on Blake Houston’s sac fly in the second. Zubillaga drove a first-pitch fastball out of the park in the third.
It was 4-4 in the the fourth when Bostian walked and scored easily from first on Caleb Shore’s line-drive double into the left-field corner. It was the 101st run of Bostian’s career, breaking a record held by Daniel Wagner. Bostian’s combination of a good eye and good wheels made the record possible.
“Get on base and let the power guys drive me in,” Bostian said. “On a lot of those runs, Caleb’s got me home.”
Bostian’s run put South ahead to stay. Brett Huffman had an RBI double. Miles had three hits. Wright’s impressive shot clinched victory.
Misenheimer earned his fourth win by racking up 14 outs on groundballs. He got relief help from Preston Penninger for two innings and Randy Shepherd in the ninth.