College Baseball: Shore and Bostian still baseball buddies
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Two starting college right fielders who grew up two miles apart shook hands, embraced and shared a laugh prior to a rainy game at Newman Park on Tuesday.
It was Catawba’s Senior Night, and Ryan Bostian, a three-year starter was one of the prime honorees.
“Hard to believe it’s my last game on this field,” Bostian said. “It’s crazy. The years creep up on you.”
The public address announcer rattled off a list of Bostian’s stats and accomplishments. It took a while.
Among other things, he was SAC tournament MVP in 2010 when he went 10-for-19 with nine RBIs. Bostian’s championship game boxscore was Hall of Fame stuff — 6-4-4-6.
Over in the visitors dugout, Belmont Abbey’s Caleb Shore stood respectfully with his red-shirted teammates and smiled. There were only a handful of people who knew Bostian would be an outstanding college player.
Shore was one of them.
He and Bostian were teammates at South Rowan High and with the South Legion team, and he was an eyewitness to Bostian’s well-rounded act as often as anybody.
“We started together back in Coach Pitch,” Shore said. “And we want to finish together. The plan is for us to go to Australia to play in August. Both my brothers (Ronnie and Brett starred at South and Davidson) played in Australia, and I want do it. There’s no one I’d rather go with than Ryan.”
When they finished their Legion careers in 2009, Shore owned the program record for homers, while Bostian owned the mark for runs scored. In a lot of career categories — doubles, steals, hits — Shore and Bostian are still back-to-back.
Shore hasn’t set any records at Belmont Abbey. He lost most of his sophomore season to injury and didn’t play a lot his freshman year.
But the last two years, he’s been a starter. He batted .277 as a junior. He’s at .283 this season.
“He’s had a very good career,” BA coach Scott Brickman said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, but each year he’s gotten more mature and more of a leader. He’s an athletic kid who’s been consistent and never slumps. And his work ethic is something for our young guys look up to.”
Belmont Abbey has used Shore’s speed more this year. He has 13 steals.
“It’s been my best year, and I’ve got a green light now on the bases,” Shore said.
Few viewed Bostian as a serious college prospect four years ago, mostly because he weighed about 150 pounds.
“I really didn’t think I was going to play, but I went to a tryout at Montreat and they made an offer,” Bostian said.
As a freshman, he was mostly a pinch-runner at the NAIA school, but the summer after his freshman year he excelled for the South Legion. Michael Lowman, a Catawba assistant coached South and was convinced Bostian could help the Indians.
After fall workouts his sophomore year, head coach Jim Gantt already had Bostian pencilled in for right field.
“When Ryan came here we knew we were getting a guy who could run and had an accurate arm,” Lowman said. “But he’s been able to do things offensively that we really didn’t know he could do.”
Bostian batted .337 with 43 RBIs as a sophomore. He slumped offensively as a junior with the change in bats, but he’s adjusted and has been terrific this year. Going into the SAC tournament, which starts today in Forest City, the leadoff man is batting .337 with six homers and 34 RBIs.
He’s stolen 20 bases in 22 attempts and has been a SAC version of Roberto Clemente in right field with 12 assists.
“An arm like his is a real asset,” Lowman said. “Guys have to think before they go.”
Bostian lists a defensive play as his season highlight.
He caught a deep flyball and fired a one-hopper to catcher Greg Lawson. Lawson then tagged out Wingate standout Casey Allison at the plate to preserve a one-run lead and end a tough SAC game.
“You don’t get to make a walk-off throw often,” Bostian said. “I’ll remember that one, but I don’t get many assists anymore. They’ve stopped running.”
Gantt didn’t think he’d ever have another right fielder as effective as Nick Lefko, whose Indian career ended in 2006, but Bostian has been that guy.
“With Nick, you were surprised any time a ball fell in right field, and Ryan is the same way, except he’s faster,” Gantt said. “Ryan has a lot of dimensions. He’s won games with his arm and by stealing a base. He can hit-and-run or he can hit it over the fence. The biggest thing with him is that even after he earned a starting job, he still showed up every day to try to get better. Besides being a real good player, he’s a good person and student. He’s tough to replace.”
Fittingly, Bostian, an aspiring accountant, will serve an internship this summer with Kannapolis CPA Ron Shore — Caleb’s father.
It’s started to hit Shore and Bostian that their careers on the field are winding down.
“It’s been emotional the last couple of weeks,” Shore said.
Catawba (37-10) is nationally ranked but still isn’t assured a regional berth unless it wins the SAC tournament.
Belmont Abbey (29-17) could qualify for regional play by winning the Conference Carolinas Tournament that starts April 25 in Wilson.
The bragging right that Shore holds over Bostian is that as a freshman he was on a team that won a regional and played in the College World Series in Cary.
“We had a great team, and I still sit down and thank God for that experience,” Shore said. “But I probably didn’t appreciate it enough. When you’re a freshman, you think you’ll go every year.”
Shore’s mother, Penni, has kept score for her boys’ games for a dozen years. So many games that her scorebook became the ‘Shorebook.”
“I’m not sure what she’s going to do, but she’ll have to find a new hobby,” Caleb said.
And Catawba and Belmont Abbey will have to find new right fielders.