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Powered by Powers, Dogs double up L-E

Posted: April 15, 2012 10:08 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2012 5:00 a.m.

On an afternoon in which finding the strike zone was along the same lines as locating the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, Sam Powers was able to decipher the code which caused others to come undone.
Powers inherited a 5-2 mess when he came on in relief of classmate Ross Hough one batter into the top of the second inning of Camden’s game with cross-river rival Lugoff-Elgin on Dogfest, presented by the May Plant Credit Union, Saturday at American Legion Park.
A freshman right-hander, Powers shut the Demons down the rest of the way on two hits as the Bulldogs downed L-E for the first time in three meetings this season in a 10-5 victory.
Playing in near-perfect conditions on a sun-splashed afternoon, five pitchers from the two sides combined to walk 17 batters. As for Powers, he issued just two walks --- both intentional --- to L-E catcher Devin Walker who shown the way to first base on three occasions without having seen a pitch.
Not surprisingly, Powers drew the praise, if not the admiration, of both coaches.
“He’s a kid that we really have a lot of confidence in. He really has a lot of poise,” said CHS head coach Denny Beckley of Powers. “Sam has been in these situations before. Last season, we brought him in to pitch in both games of the playoffs. He has a little more experience and probably wasn’t as caught up in the moment as Ross was today.
“This was Ross’ first start against a big opponent. We just wanted to have Sam ready to go and we thought that he could have success today. He sure proved us right.”
L-E head coach Randy Stokes, whose trio of pitchers doled out nine free passes, said Powers did what nobody else could do on a consistent basis in the final non-conference game for both teams.
“(Powers) threw strikes,” he said. “Hough had to throw a lot of good pitches for us to hit early. He had some close misses to the zone. I think that kind of affected his performance and we took advantage of that.
“Then, Powers comes in and does a good job. He threw a lot of strikes ... he did exactly what he needed to do.”
The Demons, which sewed up fourth place (at least) in Region 4-4A a night earlier in a 7-2 win at Ridge View, was still clinging to a 5-2 lead which it provided senior starter Ryan Hinson as this game entered the bottom of the third. That was when things all turned around as the Dogs scored five runs on four hits and used four walks in sending 11 batters to the plate in that frame.
Freshman Darius Smith got things going with a leadoff double down the left field line. With one out, both Jake Ansley and Josh Lund walked to load the bases. After Hinson got a strikeout for the second out, Cole Irick came to the plate and with a 3-2 count on him, the freshman laced a two-run single through the box to get the hosts within a run while extending the inning.
“I thought the big, swinging point of the game was Cole Irick’s at-bat,” Beckley said. “He had a full count with two outs and comes through with a two-run single. I thought that at-bat was huge.”
Zack Caulder followed with an RBI single to center to even things at 5-5. After Powers walked to re-load the bags, Hinson was lifted in favor of Jake Brazell, who was greeted by Will Morgan’s run-scoring single. A walk to Smith plated Caulder as the Dogs went on top, 7-5. Brazell got out of the inning when he got Hough to line out to Zac Hughes in left.
Later, Stokes refused to use a tight strike zone as an excuse for his thrower’s troubles on the mound.
“When you have (strike) zone like that, you have to overcome it. There’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.
“I always talk to my kids about controlling what you can control and, you can’t control that. You have to keep throwing it in there and be close to the zone and hope that good things will happen.”
The shrinking strike zone caught up with Hough, who issued consecutive walks to Walker and freshman Cody Mailly to open the game. Walker would score the game’s first run on classmate Gunner’s Smith double to left center. Dylan Grigsby plated Mailly with a sac fly to center for the second out and a 2-0 lead.
A single by eighth-grader Brock Robinson, followed by a Zac Hughes walk, loaded the bases for sophomore Hunter McManus, who unloaded them with a three-run, opposite field double to left center for a 5-0 lead.
When the dust had finally settled after a 23-minute opening half inning, the Demons had hung up five runs on four hits. But L-E left three runners hanging on the bases after Beckley decided to issue the first of three straight intentional passes to the Winthrop-bound Walker when first base was open. Hough got the final out on a fly ball to Darius Smith in right.
Beckley said he altered his philosophy by not pitching to Walker, who had burned the Dogs on too many previous occasions for the CHS boss to allow it to happen in the last game Walker would play against Camden. On each instance in which Walker was walked, first base was open with a runner either on second base, third base or, both.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Devin Walker and the way he plays the game. He’s a battler, a hustler and does things the right way,” Beckley said. “He’s really hurt us over the past few years. We feel he’s their best guy and we didn’t want to have to look back after this game and say, ‘Why didn’t we walk him?’
“I’ve never done that to a hitter before, but the situations came up where we had to do it. It worked out for us this time. Usually, I like to be more aggressive ... but he’s just a heckuva player.”
Camden got to Hinson for a pair in its first at-bat.
After Darius Smith walked to open things, Hough lined a single to left. With one gone, Lund --- batting clean-up --- belted an RBI double to left center to bring in Smith while Jalen Rice, running for Hough, held up at third. Rice came in on Kevin Collins’ ground out for the second out as the home team cut the deficit to 5-2.
Beckley later said getting a pair back early was big for his team’s confidence.
“We just had a feeling that today was going to be a big defensive day for us. We just had to stay the course,” he said. “Coach (Brian) Kersey, Coach (Casey) Faulkenberry, Coach (Zach) Rabon, Coach (Josh) Wilson and Coach (Tony) Hough were all in the dugout and staying positive. We really didn’t panic. We worked our way back into it.”
After the five-run third, Powers settled into a groove in which he struck out four batters while giving up his second hit in his six-inning relief stint with a one-out Radcliff single in the seventh.
While not needing any more insurance, the Dogs gave Powers three more runs to play with in the bottom of the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Lawson Stokes would begin things with a leadoff walk before being replaced at first by Morgan. Darius Smith’s pop-up on a bunt resulted in Brazell and Walker colliding with the L-E pitcher coming up with the ball on a play which sent both players to the bench after spending time lying on the field as a result of the hit between teammates.
Reliever Jacob Young then walked Hough and Ansley to load the bases for Lund, whose fly ball to right was dropped, allowing Morgan to come in. Hough made it a 9-5 game when he scored on Irick’s bases-loaded walk, his third RBI of the afternoon. The final run crossed when Caulder’s being hit by a pitch sent Ansley home.
Beckley said his team’s offensive approach was changed by the calling of the game behind the plate.
 “We realized the umpire’s strike zone was real tight so, we tried to be more patient than we normally are. Other than that, we just stuck with our plan,” he said.
Both sides collected six hits on the afternoon with Radcliff, hitting in the nine hole for the Demons, being the only player on either side to have a multi-hit game as he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base.
Each coach had a different take on the importance of the game.
L-E received a strong pitching performance from Zack Bowers Friday night as the sophomore gave up four hits while fanning 12 in the victory which locked down a top four spot in region play for the Demons.
The Demons have two games left in regular season play and just one this week when Irmo comes to Optimist Field on Friday night.
“I told them that in the big picture, this game didn’t mean a whole lot,” Stokes said. “We had a big, emotional win last night against Ridge View in a game where we had to score some runs late. It was a close game that we had some big hits in and received a good pitching performance.
“We just have to find a way to put together a couple good games in a row. When you come off an emotional game and come right back into another emotional game ... I don't think that's why we lost today, though. We didn’t throw enough strikes and gave them too many base runners.
“We’re going to try and get better. We’ll go hard (this) week. We’re going to be hard on them to help prepare them and tune things up for the playoffs.”
Across the way, Beckley was just finishing getting the field ready for the junior varsity game between the two sides in Saturday’s second game of the doubleheader.
With rake in hand, he talked about the importance of Saturday’s game which led up to this week’s home games with Region 6-AAA-leading Darlington on Tuesday followed by Thursday’s regular season finale against Marlboro County, which is tied for second in the circuit with Camden at 6-2 heading into this week.
“We talked about how important this game was,” Beckley said of his pre-game talk to his player. “It’s a big rival game and we have our two most important games of our season coming up (this) week. Winning this one gives us a lot of confidence going into those games. This was a big game for us.”

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