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Athlete update

Osceola grad just fine in his new frontier

Published July 2, 2006

2003 Stetson graduate Ian Church (Osceola) may not consider himself a power hitter, but his statistics tell a different story.

Since joining the Kalamazoo Kings in the Independent Baseball League in March, the 22-year-old has accrued a Frontier League-leading 11 home runs, 17 doubles and 29 extra-base hits. Church also leads the league in hits (43) and slugging percentage (.714) and is tied for second in RBIs with 26. His .323 hitting average is among the top 10 in the league and is second on the squad.

In a game last month against River City, Church recorded a home run in the ninth inning to break an 8-all tie. Last week, Church collected three RBIs on two home runs to help the Kings win their fifth consecutive game.

"Ian is a great guy and a very smart player that has had tremendous success behind the plate this season," said Kings manager Fran Riordan in a postgame interview with a Kalamazoo Gazette sports reporter. "He approaches each at-bat with the same aggressiveness and has developed into one of the best hitters in the league."

As much success as Church is having at the plate, he takes special pride in his defense, especially in tracking the ball in the outfield and throwing out the runner.

After leading Osceola to two runnerup state soccer finishes and earning all-state honors in baseball, Church assessed his college choices.

"When it came down to it, I had a couple of opportunities that included playing soccer at a Division II school," Church said. "I wanted to play baseball at a Division I school and when I weighed the facility and education, I chose Stetson. It's really special to me that we went to the NCAA Regionals each year I was there. I'll never forget that."

Church signed with the Lincoln Salt Dogs in the Independent Northern League. After a stint with the Sioux City Explorers, Church was signed by the Kings in March. "My goal is to get signed by a major league organization," Church said.

MORE BASEBALL: Vanderbilt's Cameron Betourne (Clearwater) is playing for the Orleans Cardinals in the prestigious Cape Cod Wooden Bat League. The left-hander had a 2.55 ERA in 16 appearances, collecting 30 strikeouts.

* John Petika (Clearwater Central Catholic) closed out his two years at Central Florida CC, leading the squad in hitting average (.389), hits (72) and RBIs (44). Petika signed with Florida International.* Central Florida outfielder Bill Manion (East Lake) led the team in stolen bases (11) while hitting .323 and recording 29 RBI. Manion signed with High Point.* Zach Wendkos (Shorecrest) completed his four-year career at Princeton, leading the team in average (.339), runs (31), hits (57), RBI (39), slugging percentage (.583) and tied for first in doubles (13).

TRACK AND FIELD: Ashlee Kidd (St. Petersburg) will represent the United States in this month's North American, Central American Caribbean under-23 Championships in Santa Domingo, D.R. The Georgia Tech junior will participate on the 4x400-meter relay team in the July 7-9 contest.

* Howard sophomore Lauren McNary (Palm Harbor University) was named to the NCAA Division I all-East Regional team. McNary was second in the 400 meters in the MEAC Indoor Championships and won the conference race in the Outdoor Championships with a career-best time of 52.91.

[Last modified July 1, 2006, 12:04:50]

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