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After a rough start, Demons are playoff-bound

Posted: April 17, 2013 4:04 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2013 5:00 a.m.

That strong breeze which you may have felt coming from the northeast area of Richland County on Tuesday night may well have been as the result of a collective exhale from the Lugoff-Elgin baseball team.
After losing their first three games of the Region 4-4A season and then, falling to 2-5 in league play, the Demons are playoff-bound again following Tuesday’s 3-0 win over host Ridge View.
The shutout gave Randy Stokes’ charges a sweep of the season series with the Blazers and assured L-E (3-6 in conference play) of a return trip to the state tournament which begins next Thursday. For the second straight year, the Demons will open the post-season with a trip to meet Lexington, the state’s top-ranked 4A entry.
It would not matter if L-E were playing the Atlanta Braves next week, their coach said. All he and his players wanted was the chance to play following tonight’s regular season finale with visiting Irmo.
“Our kids are just excited about getting the opportunity to play in the post-season,” Stokes said. “For a while there, we didn’t know if that was going to work out for us.”
Thanks to Zac Bowers, who improved to 3-3 on the season, it did work out for the Demons. In beating the Blazers for the second time this season, the junior right-hander threw a complete game three-hitter in which he fanned four and walked one batter.
It was another stellar effort for Bowers, who struggled to get any run support in his first four starts of the season. It was his second consecutive shutout.
“Zac was very good,” Stokes said. “He threw the ball very well and was able to get ahead of their hitters with the fastball. We were very pleased with his effort. In a big game, it was a big performance by him.”
The Demons gave Bowers, a winner in his last three starts, the one run he would need in the top of the fifth as recent junior varsity call-up, Blake Serpas, singled before being forced at second by an Austin Hayes ground ball. Hayes would steal second and scored from there on Cody Mailly’s single to left.
An inning later, sophomore shortstop Russ Radcliff clubbed his team-leading third home run of the season with a solo shot to left off RV starter Chris Moody for a 2-0 lead.
The Demons gave Bowers another run to work with in the seventh as Hayes singled, went to third on a Hunter McManus double to center, and scored on Mailly’s sacrifice fly to right to make it a 3-0 game.
While giving up just three runs, Moody kept his outfielders busy.
“We hit the ball pretty hard all night. We had a couple balls which were hit to the fence,” Stokes said of his team’s seven-hit attack. “Danny Bowen hit a ball that they caught at the fence. Jordan O’Cain hit a ball off the top of the fence and McManus’ double came when their centerfielder ran into the fence trying to make the catch.
“We hit the ball well all the way through the lineup and Blake Serpas hit the ball extremely well for us.”
Finishing fourth in region play did not give the Demons an enviiable first round state tourney pairing, but you will not hear Stokes complaining about the draw.
“My approach to the playoffs has always been that it’s different than the regular season and that you should enjoy it,” he said. “When you get into the playoffs, you understand how much fun it is to still be playing baseball. Later (in life), you’ll find out just how much you miss playing with your teammates.”


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