College baseball: Catawba adds Huffman, Bostian

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 31, 2009

By Mike London
Brett Huffman’s mammoth home run that cleared the weight room behind the center-field fence at South Rowan demonstrated untapped potential.
Ryan Bostian’s speed, glove and bat stayed a secret too long, but he was hard to ignore once he started changing the South Legion record book this summer.
Huffman and Bostian, standouts on a Legion team that enjoyed a second-place finish in the Southern Division of Area III ó South’s best regular-season showing ever ó impressed South coach and Catawba assistant Michael Lowman.
Now both players are late additions to Catawba’s baseball recruiting class.
“Getting a chance to see those two guys every day this summer was key, and Coach Lowman could see their work habits and see how they perceive things,” Catawba head coach Jim Gantt said. “Bostian we’ve liked for some time. Huffman kind of opened our eyes this summer.”
Huffman recently graduated from West Rowan High. Bostian, a 2008 South Rowan High graduate, is transferring from NAIA Montreat. They’ll be rooming together this school year.
“It’ll be a South Legion apartment,” Huffman said with a chuckle. “Maybe we can get Blake Houston over here next year.”
The Indians’ allotment of baseball scholarships was drained months ago, but both athletes qualify for enough academic-based aid to make Catawba affordable.
Huffman, maybe the first athlete in county history to claim Scrabble as his hidden talent, scooped up a Presidential Scholarship worth $8,000 a year so long as he maintains a 3.0 GPA.
Bostian is also an excellent student.
“Keeping my grades up at Montreat turned out to be important as far as getting academic money from Catawba,” said Bostian, who will pursue a business degree.
Bostian batted .360 with 17 steals as an all-county high school senior. He began his career as an infielder before finding a safer home in the outfield.
“Got my lip busted by a groundball when I was a sophomore,” Bostian said. “I was an outfielder after that.”
Gantt first took notice of Bostian when South Rowan’s Legion team played Rowan County at Newman Park last summer. Bostian was asked after that game about his college plans, but he’d already signed with Montreat.
He hit .259 as a freshman at Montreat and also was used extensively as a courtesy runner, a rules variation employed by NAIA schools.
“Things went well up there,” Bostian said. “It’s just that Catawba’s a whole lot closer to home.”
Bostian, 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, has a good arm, exceptional speed and surprising pop for his size. He hit nine career Legion homers.
This summer, he broke the South Legion record for career runs scored with 105. He’s second in program history in hits (135), fourth in doubles (19), fourth in RBIs (69) and fifth in steals (35).
“Bostian has good baseball instincts, and not everyone does,” Gantt said. “That’s important.”
Huffman is the son of Kris Huffman, who was a standout pitcher and shortstop at Salisbury High, helped the Rowan Legion team win the 1984 state championship and excelled at Catawba for three seasons.
Kris was a 20th-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals and played from 1987-89 as an infielder in St. Louis’ farm system, making stops in Johnson City, Tenn., Savannah, Ga., and Springfield, Mo.
Partly because of Brett Huffman’s imposing frame and partly because of his bloodlines ó Kris’ brothers Kirk, Kale and the late Kendall Huffman also played college baseball ó there always have been high expectations from fans.
Brett was West Rowan’s first baseman his junior and senior seasons and batted a relatively quiet .288 in both 2008 and 2009 with a total of 24 RBIs.
But his confidence picked up noticeably during his senior year. He carved out a role and was an asset off the bench on West’s NPC champion basketball team.
“I had to guard (6-7 Charlotte signee) K.J. Sherrill every day in practice,” Huffman said. “That wasn’t always fun, but it got me in the best shape of my life.”
Huffman hit only two varsity homers while he was at West, but he was a three-year fixture in the lineup for South’s Legion team and accumulated 50 RBIs.
He had a power breakout this summer, batting .337 with three homers and seven doubles, and he was effective as a right-handed reliever on the mound. At a rangy 6-4, he certainly looks the part of a pitcher, and he sported a 0.00 ERA throughout the regular season.
Still, it appeared he might go to East Carolina as a regular student until about a month ago.
At the North-South American Legion All-Star Game, Division III Methodist expressed interest in him. At about that same time, Lowman asked Huffman if he’d considered Catawba at all.
“I always wanted to play in college, but I just hadn’t found anywhere,” Huffman said. “Coach Lowman started pushing me this summer, telling me I should play for someone. When he first mentioned Catawba, I thought he was joking, but it turned out he wasn’t. Catawba really wanted me for me, and not just because of my name, and that was important to me.”
Gantt’s happy to have him.
“Brett’s got some talent,” he said. “He’s got that big body you like to have at first base, and we like his arm slot on the mound. He may end up pitching a lot for us.”