By Scotty Rouse
The Piedmont Pride summer baseball team captured its second consecutive regular season Southern Collegiate Baseball League crown by beating the Concord Weavers 10-1. The Pride, sponsored by the Piedmont Fellowship of Christian Athletes, improved to 30-7 on the season.
The Weavers jumped out to a 1-0 lead by scoring an unearned run off starter Daniel Sweeney. The Pride took the lead with two runs in the second on an RBI single off the bat of Chuck Lawing and an RBI ground out by Bailey Montoya. They added another run in the third on two-out singles from Sam Sustersic, Justin Sparks, and Chandler Redmond. The Pride broke the game wide open in the bottom of the fourth, scoring 7 runs on 9 hits. The big blow was a three-run homer by Sustersic, while Montoya, Trey Logan, Derek Horton, and Mike Morgan each had run-scoring single.
Meanwhile, reliever Jason Goe was shutting down the Weavers offense by throwing four innings of no-hit relief. Noah Watts pitched a hitless sixth inning, while Jake Moebius closed it with a hitless seventh. Goe earned the win, raising his record to 6-1.
The Pride team was founded by FCA Area Director and former Winthrop coach Joe Hudak,. Hudak also serves as the team’s head coach. As expected, Hudak was pleased with the second regular season crown. “It’s great to play well enough to win the regular season again this year”, the skipper commented. “I’m very proud of how well the guys played as a team again this year”. Hudak attributed a large portion of the team’s success to living together during the summer. “Most summer league teams have host families for the players”, he continued. “We actually house all of our players together in a dorm setting. This really helps them bond quickly, and brings them much closer together than a normal summer team.”
As proud as Hudak is of the team’s play on the field, he is even prouder of their success off the field. “We are a faith-based team, which makes us different from the vast majority of summer college teams”, Hudak explained. “Our goal is to certainly play well on the field, and to win the SCBL title. However, our greater goal is to help our players grow in their faith. We have team Bible studies and chapels, and we go to church together every Sunday. We hope that each one of our players chooses to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” The team has visited five different churches throughout the summer. “Our goal is to have our players see a variety of different worship services, and to know what it really means to be a Christian, so that they can make a decision for themselves whether they want to follow Christ or not”, Hudak concluded. The team also does ministry work in the community. “We also have goal to give back to York County”, he continued. “We volunteered twice a week at Harold C. Johnson Elementary School in York where we stayed. Our players worked in a reading program with the elementary students. We also served as huddle leaders at our FCA Power camp, and volunteered during Elevation Church’s Love Week by collecting food for a Tega Cay food bank.” The summer concludes with the trip of a lifetime, as several of the players will go on a weeklong mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
The Pride concludes the regular season with a single game at the Carolina Vipers Wednesday evening, and a home doubleheader at 5:00 on Friday, July 22 at the Winthrop Ballpark. The team receives a first round bye in the playoffs, and will play a best of three semi-final series July 26-27-28 against an opponent to be determined. The first game will be at 7:00 on Tuesday, July 26 at the Winthrop Ballpark. Game two will be Wednesday on the road, while game three, if necessary, will be back at the Winthrop Ballpark on Thursday, July 28 at 7:00. If the Pride wins their semi-final series, they will play the championship series July 29-30-31, following the same format.
Hudak is looking forward to the playoffs, but knows that winning or losing the championship is not the ultimate goal for his team. “If we win the championship, but have not impacted our players for Christ, then our season has been a colossal failure”, he explained. “If, however, our players grow in their relationship with Christ, winning the championship will only be the icing on the cake”. He does have one request for the people of York County. “I’d love to see the people of York County come out during the playoffs to cheer the guys on. They have given a lot of time and effort to this community, and it would be great for the community to give back to them.”