Prep Baseball: South Rowan 12, Concord 3
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 2, 2012
By Mike London
LANDIS — Brian Smith, South Rowan’s only major league baseball player, was honored before Monday’s game with Concord, and the surging Raiders stayed hot with a 12-3 win over the Spiders.
“Brian reached the majors — after arm surgery,” SR coach Thad Chrismon said. “That’s a good lesson in perseverance and responding to adversity for all our guys.”
The perseverance of this season’s South team is no longer in question. After a 3-5 start that included brutal NPC losses to West Iredell, West Rowan and Carson, the Raiders (9-6) have won six out of seven and are brimming with confidence.
A recent addition after receiving medical clearance, Johnny Lefebvre has been part of the revival. He had a three-run double and a two-run double to KO the Spiders.
“Considering how we started, we feel pretty good about where we are now,” Chrismon said. “This was a special night for the program. The guys were thrilled to meet Brian.”
Smith’s framed jersey will enter the trophy case at South, and he was joined at home plate by Chrismon and former coach Ernie Faw, who piloted the Raiders from 1982-1995.
Smith, a 1990 South graduate, turns 40 in July, but he could pass for 30, thanks to a passion for golf and a strict workout regimen. He lives in Huntsville, Ala., and is employed by Edwin Watts, one of the world’s biggest specialty golf retailers.
Smith still ranks in the top 10 at UNC Wilmington (1991-94) in career starts, innings, shutouts and strikeouts. In college, he crossed paths with Chrismon, who was a relief pitcher for North Carolina.
Smith was 52-50 in a long minor league odyssey that began in Medicine Hat, Canada, in 1994, and finally ended in Colorado Springs in 2003.
And for a couple of glorious weeks during his journey, he was a Pittsburgh Pirate. He debuted in the majors against St. Louis on Sept. 11, 2000, and came out of the pen in two more games for the Pirates.
When Smith got the word South wanted to retire his jersey at a night game, his first thought was, “Hey, they must have lights now.” He liked the new look of his old home, tossed a ceremonial first pitch to catcher Eric Tyler and got South started to another win.
The fifth inning was decisive. Trailing 3-2, Concord (4-9) had the bases loaded and no outs when Colby Readling drilled a hooking liner to left.
Dillon Parker’s leaping, lunging catch turned a two-run double into a sac fly, and South lefty Austin Holbrook got out of the mess with a strikeout and a groundout.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, Lefebvre cleared the bases with his first double to put South in charge to stay.
“I knew it was a big circumstance,” Lefebvre said. “I was thinking opposite field, but I got a pitch to hit that was right down the heart.”
Tyler Fuller’s 390-foot triple and booming doubles by Lefebvre and Matt Miller blew it open and gave Holbrook his first career win.
“Both teams had nine hits,” Concord coach Jaymie Russ said. “But South’s were a whole lot louder than ours.”
Jordan Kennerly shut out Concord the last two innings.