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17ers get rude introduction into League IV

KC slated to play host to Orangeburg in tonight’s home opener

Posted: May 31, 2012 2:31 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2012 5:00 a.m.

This was hardly one of those heartwarming “welcome to the neighborhood” scenes which you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting.
Playing its first game in League IV and for first-year head coach Craig Smith, Kershaw County Post 17 opened its 2012 baseball campaign with a 13-3 loss to host Lexington in a game stopped in the eighth-inning on Wednesday night at Lexington High School.
The hosts, which finished with two League IV wins a year ago, are an entirely different team this season, Smith said. After having played travel ball last year, those Lexington players who finished up their high school eligibility were encouraged to play American Legion ball this summer by Wildcat head coach Brian Hucks. It makes for a dangerous team.
“When Lugoff-Elgin got beat by Lexington in the state playoffs this year,” Smith said, “(L-E head coach) Randy (Stokes) said they were the best high school team that he had ever seen. Well, they are all playing Legion ball this year. Our guys went up against nine players who are going to be playing college ball.”
Leading the way for a team which included eight LHS starters and one from Chapin, was starting pitcher Nicholas Jobst, who worked the first six frames. He struck out a dozen KC batters on a night in which the hosts fanned 16 times in 24 outs.
As if facing a pitcher whose fastball was clocked in the high 80s to low 90s was not enough, KC went in after not having been able to take batting practice on Monday or Tuesday since the batting cage at American Legion Park was under water due to rain. In addition, they were not allowed to use the batting cage at LHS before the game.
“This was a culture shock for some of our young guys,” Smith said of their facing Jobst. “I think that we might have three or four guys on our team who have ever faced somebody who throws between 85 to 90 miles an hour and, (Jobst) did that for five or six innings. He was hitting his spots well.
“I didn’t feel bad about the way that we played, though. We played good defense; we made three errors, but none of those guys scored. We also ran the bases well and were aggressive when we got men on base.
“But you’re not going to beat a Dixie Youth team when you strike out 16 times in one game. We need to be able to put the ball in play.”
The guests went down in order their first three times facing Jobst.
After Lexington scored a run in the first off KC starter Zack Bowers, KC knotted things with a run in the top of the fourth when Blake Outlaw walked, stole second and scored on Grayson King’s single. The 17ers evened things at 2-2 with a run in the sixth as Outlaw again reached on a leadoff walk before stealing second and third and scoring on a Kal Davis opposite field double to left center.
The hosts would pull away with a six-run bottom of the sixth before adding a pair in the second and three more in the eight, including a game-closing home run off the bat of Austin Hart.
P-17 scored its final run in the seventh when pinch-hitter Deion Gridione walked before being lifted for pinch-runner Broderick Gaither, who stole second and third. He scored on a Russ Radcliff single to center, the last of the visitors’ four hits.
When getting men on the base paths, the 17ers were able to make things happen as they swiped seven bases on the night.
Bowers went the first five-plus innings, giving up three runs on four hits while striking out seven.The right-hander was followed to the mound by a trio of relievers.
Lexington banged out 15 hits on the night against the quartet of KC pitchers. Austin Bello, a 4A All-State selection went 4-for-4 at the plate for the winners while fellow all-stater Collin Steagall had three hits in four trips as did Hart, who was 3-for-5 on the evening.
In spite of the way in which the hosts hit the ball, Smith said he was not upset with the performance of his young pitchers
“I thought Zack and our other pitchers threw the ball well. (Lexington) just pounded it,” Smith said. “They weren’t getting cheap hits off the end of the bat or off the fists; all their hits were solid.”
For many of the young 17ers, this was an eye-opener for them into the world of summer ball. “This is going to force our young guys to grow up very quickly. A lot of them are putting their feet into the water in Legion ball for the first time.
Smith said there was little for his team to do than to go back to the field and practice on Thursday for tonight’s home opener at American Legion Park against defending League IV champion Orangeburg. King is scheduled to take the mound for the 7 p.m. start for a team which did not take Wednesday’s loss lightly.
“Our kids never got down in this game,” Smith said. “They did take it personally because they understand what it takes to play American Legion baseball. They know they represent the members of our American Legion post, who have done so much for us, as well as for all those in our military who are defending our country now.”

Keeping POSTed: Wednesday was the regular season opener for Post 17 after Tuesday’s scheduled season opener in Camden against Lexington was rained out. That contest will be made up in the final week (July 2-6) of the regular season in which KC goes to Lexington on Juky 2 before having a home-and-home, non-league series against Sumter. One of the two games with Post 15 could get scratched due to the make-up game ... The 17ers were without the services of starting catcher and leadoff hitter Devin Walker. The Winthrop signee may not be available for tonight’s contest after having had all four wisdom teeth extracted during the week ... In addition to Davis’ double and RBI singles from King and Radcliff, the other KC hit was supplied by Hunter McManus ... A dozen of the 17 players in Post 17 uniforms on Wednesday night were dressed out for their first American Legion game ... The lone non-Lexington High School starter in the Post 7 lineup on Wednesday was Chapin High catcher and Charleston Southern signee Zach Haramblis ... In other League IV action on Wednesday, Orangeburg run-ruled Dalzell-Shaw, 14-3, in a game played at Thomas Sumter Academy’s General Field.

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