While others were catching an NCAA Regional in the Triangle or working on more draft stuff, I decided to venture over to the home of the Carolina Mudcats to take in Game 1 of the North Carolina 3-A State Championship Series. Pikeville's Aycock High was taking on Weddington High of Matthews and 2013 lefthander Alex Bostic (Weddington) was the starter. Weddington has four players committed to play college baseball that will return next season, including Bostic (Clemson), so this was a chance to see one of the state's top teams and players.
Weddington won 5-3, leaving the Warriors just one game shy of a state title. They scored two in the third inning on a pair of doubles and three more in the fourth with a triple, single and sacrifice fly.
The main attraction was Bostic. He's tall and lean with broad shoulders. He pitches from a high three-quarter arm slot and sat 87-89 mph with his fastball and touched 90. He threw a breaking ball that seemed to shift between a curveball and hard slurve. He didn't always spin either enough, but when he did the curve had some depth to it while the slurve was sharper with a little more tilt. He pitches with a fast tempo and tends to spin off toward third base, which may have been factors in his poor command.
Bostic left the game in the seventh inning with no outs and the bases loaded. The runners ended up scoring and he finished with a line of six innings pitched, two hits, three runs, eight walks and eight strikeouts. In fairness, a double surrendered by reliever David Pope, should have been a sacrifice fly at worst as the left fielder seemed to have lost the ball and then took a very poor route.
In the first inning, Bostic looked amped up as he was rushing his delivery and missing the zone. He surrendered a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt and stolen base, but escaped the inning unscathed when first baseman Jeremy Schellhorn turned a nifty double play by snaring a hard grounder, stepping on first and throwing home to cut down the runner trying to score.
After that, Bostic went into cruise control for two innings and struck out five consecutive batters, but stumbled in the fourth. He walked the bases loaded, but still escaped with no hits or runs by striking a batter out on a 3-2 breaking ball. He struck out two more in the fifth before experiencing more trouble in the sixth.
"He's got a real good fastball," Weddington head coach Travis Poole said. "I just think he lost his command today and that got him in some trouble. I looked up at one point and they had the bases loaded and hadn't had a hit yet. When he commands the zone, which he normally does, he's pretty good. He's a special kid to have on your team."
Bostic didn't give up hit until the first batter of the sixth inning. Aycock junior outfielder Adam Pate, who is verbally committed to North Carolina, smacked a single to right and advanced to third when the ball got past right fielder Sean Collins. Bostic got two infield outs before walking the bases loaded again, but induced a fly ball to escape once again.
"Some of the pitches I just didn't have a feel for toward the end," Bostic said. "I started leaving everything up and the front side was getting down. I got behind on too many batters and walked way too many people. I just have to slow down and think about what I'm doing wrong, fix my mechanics, work on it when I'm warming up."
After allowing a single and two walks in the top of the seventh, Weddington went to the bullpen. Bostic's runners scored, but the Warriors held on to take Game 1 of the series.
Weddington will be interesting to watch in 2013 with the returning starters and Bostic as the ace, but Collins should garner some attention as well. He is a sophomore committed to Virginia with a very projectable frame. He stands about 6-foot-4 now with lanky limbs, but he has big feet so he figures to fill out with more strength as he matures. He didn't do anything specific in this game that jumped, but just seeing him physically and factoring in his age, makes him worth following.
CONTRIBUTING: Clint Longenecker