Church pitches Bristol to win

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Mike Wiebe of Bristol hustles back to third base to avoid being tagged out Tuesday in the Panthers’ 3-1 win over Newbury.

FAIRPORT HARBOR — In a battle of pitching and defense, the Bristol Panthers came out on top, beating Newbury 3-1 in their Division IV Fairport Harbor District semifinal matchup on Tuesday.

Bristol advances to face another Northeastern Athletic Conference opponent, Mathews, in the district title game on Thursday.

Pitching for the Panthers Tuesday was freshman Nick Church who recorded nine strikeouts and allowed three hits. Bristol coach Jeff Thompson fully expected a pitching battle given, how good both pitchers were.

“We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game because their pitcher is very good,” Thompson said. “We knew with Church on the mound, and (Gage) Elza as well that this would be a low-scoring game.”

Thompson praised the freshman’s performance and said the sky is the limit for him with both pitching and hitting.

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Nick Church launches a pitch during Bristol’s 3-1 victory over Newbury Tuesday. Church struck out nine in the win.

“I thought Church threw very well for us today,” Thompson said. “He’s only a freshman. He can be as good as he wants to be, both on the mound and at the plate with the big hit that he got. He has unlimited potential right there.”

After scoring one run in the third inning, the Panther bats took a nap until the bottom of the sixth, right after the Black Knights tied the game at 1-1. Church knocked in two runners with a double, giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead after the sixth inning.

“We knew that runs were going to be at a premium today,” Thompson said.

Gage Elza was the lone player on either team to register more than one hit. He also stepped onto the mound in relief for Church, striking out one and earning the win.

Mike Wiebe had an impressive game at catcher and scoring twice on offense. Thompson heaped a lot of praise on Wiebe, noting his versatility.

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Bristol's Nick Church hits a double to score two runners in the Panthers' 3-1 win Tuesday over Newbury.

“I can put him anywhere on the field and he can play,” Thompson said. “Whether it’s at the bat, whether he’s catching. He’s one hell of a second baseman. I can play him anywhere in the field. He’s pitched like 10 innings for us this year and his ERA is 0.00.”

What’s most impressive to Thompson is how young the Panthers are. Bristol started three freshmen. Church, Garrett Roach and Johnny Stephens all played prominent roles for the Panthers.

“We’re still a young team,” Thompson said. “I started three juniors, a sophomore, and three freshmen today. We have three seniors and I love them all but we’re still a young team. My core group is juniors so we have something to build on.”

“They’re very well, coached,” Thompson said about Thursday’s opponent Mathews. “I have a lot of respect for them as coaches, and they’re just tough one through nine. I’m happy that we’re playing the district final and we’ve got to be ready to play because Mathews is very good.

“We have a tough game on Thursday, but I’m glad we’re in it.”