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L-E polishes off Diamond Hornets, 10-0

Posted: April 15, 2014 1:39 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Playing football in the fall and basketball in the winter leaves Elliott Campbell precious little time to prepare for baseball season in the spring.
That is one of the several reasons why Lugoff-Elgin baseball coach Randy Stokes is easing the freshman into the pitching rotation. Playing in a tournament like this week’s Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Classic in Camden affords both the Demons’ coach and Campbell the opportunity to ease put the 6-foot-5 right-hander into a less pressure-packed setting.
Throwing five innings of three-hit ball, Campbell won for the second time in as many decisions as he blanked Lower Richland, 10-0, in a game stopped in the fifth inning by the 10-run rule.
Campbell, however, was not the lone youngster to shine for L-E on this night as eighth-grade shortstop Bradwin Salmond continued to swing a hot bat as he drove in three runs in the blitzing of the Diamond Hornets. Not to let the young kids hog the entire spotlight, senior Mikey Branham had three of L-E’s seven hits including a double and an RBI.
As for Campbell, whose other win came against Camden also at American Legion Park, he set seven LR batters down on strikes while facing just 16 batters, only one of which advanced past first base. Stokes said he received exactly what he was looking to get from his freshman starter.
“That’s probably the best performance that we’ve seen out of him,” Stokes said of Campbell’s quick night of work. “He threw his breaking ball for strikes; he threw with some velocity and got a lot of balls down in the zone. They really didn’t get many good swings against him.”
Stokes added that this was another step in the right direction for Campbell and his development and helping the Demons offset the loss of three senior starting pitchers after this season.
“We think Elliott’s going to be real special one day,” he said. “He’s late getting out because he plays all three sports. He’s just getting into his groove right now. We’re looking for big things out of him in the future.”
Facing a free-swinging Diamond Hornet offense, Campbell struck out five of the first six batters he faced.Howard Henderson’s one-out single in the first was erased when he was gunned down trying to steal second by L-E catcher Danny Bowen.  That was the first of two would-be LR base runners thrown out trying to swipe second by Bowen.
Until A.J. Jenkins singled with two gone in the fifth, Campbell threw to the minimum 14 batters.
With Campbell handcuffing the LR offense, the Demons did not have to do much with the wooden bats and scored the one run they would need in the top of the first when Salmond reached first on a fielder’s choice against Henderson. Taking second on a balk and third on a Gunner Smith single, Salmond came across on a Blake Serpas sacrifice fly to left.
An inning later, Henderson’s inability to find the strike zone and other maladies led to a four-run L-E bottom of the second.
Branham opened the rally with a leadoff single to left followed by walks to Brock Robinson and Bowen to load the bases for Hunter McManus who got aboard on a bases-loaded catcher’s interference as Branham scored. Consecutive walks by Cody Mailly and Salmond plated runs three and four while a Serpas fielder’s choice brought McManus home to make it a 5-0 game.
Branham kicked off the third with another leadoff single and scored on an error on a ball hit by McManus to hike the lead to 6-0.
Almost inventing new ways to score, the Demons put this one in the books early with a pair in the fourth followed by two more in the fifth.
Salmond got aboard to start the fourth by reaching base after a passed ball on a swinging third strike. He stole second before Smith was hit by a Jontrai Jackson offering. The pair advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Serpas with Salmond scoring on a passed ball. Smith made it an 8-0 game when he came in from third on Branham’s double, a two-hopper to the fence in left center.
An inning later, McManus lined a one-out single to center. Mailly then walked. The pair moved up on a wild pitch and then followed each other home on Salmond’s liner down the first base line to close the contest.
LR’s numbers were ugly as the AAA entry committed four errors, its pitchers issued five walks, had a runner get on by catcher’s interference and another by a dropped third strike with one being hit by a pitch. The Demons scored six runs from players who reached base without putting the ball into play.
Stokes said he told his team not to get caught up in what the opposition did as much as play their game.
“We talked about having fun this week being around each other,” he said. “We don’t want to go backwards this week because we have two big region games next week which will determine where we will be seeded going into the playoffs.
“We played pretty solid tonight. I was happy with it.”
The combination of a short night, Campbell’s seven strikeouts and the wooden bats made for a quiet evening for the L-E outfielders who only were called on to field the ball three times with rightfielder Ethan Beasley recording the lone fly ball out.
“I don’t think your approach (at the plate) changes with the wooden bats,” Stokes said. “I think it makes you focus more to hit the ball on the barrel because they know if they hit the ball on their hands it’s going to break the bat.
“We played our defense about the same as we always do, but we made out outfielders play more shallow than normal. It changes the game, but our kids like it … just the change of it.”

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