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Demons’ seventh inning rally comes up short

Posted: April 18, 2014 10:41 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

If there was a recurring theme for Lugoff-Elgin in the Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Classic, it was the Demons’ having their share of chances to pull out wins in three of their games, only to have nothing to show for those efforts in the win column.
The latest in those series of events came in Thursday’s final day of play at American Legion Park as Randy Stokes’ troops fell to Dutch Fork, 4-2. In this contest, the Demons had the bases loaded with one out in a top of the seventh in which they had already chopped a 4-0 deficit in half.
The loss was the third in as many nights for L-E which opened the four-day event with a 10-0 shutout over Lower Richland on Monday. After that came three near-misses. While the setbacks were tough to take, Stokes was hardly disappointed with his team’s effort.
“We haven’t played bad baseball this week,” said Stokes whose squad is still without injured starting shortstop Russ Radcliff. “A hit here or there or, a pitch here or there … we were in every ballgame. We were beating South Florence, 2-0, in the fifth and we were leading Camden, at one time, and lose that game, 3-2.
“We had a bunch of opportunities. Tonight, we ended up with the tying run on second in the seventh, so we’ve been in a lot of games. A hit here or there would have made the difference but, we have not played awful. I’m OK with the way we played.”
L-E had scoring chances against Silver Fox starter Zach Ziesing, who went six innings before giving way to fellow lefty Zach Fant in the seventh.
The Demons had the bags jammed with one gone in the top of the first only to see that threat go by the boards on a pitcher to home to first, --- 1-2-3 --- double play. They also left runners hanging on third in both the fourth and fifth frames.
Meanwhile, L-E starter Seth Nelson blanked DF for four innings on just 33 pitches. His lone tough frame came in a four-run fifth in which the Demons’ soon-to-be Region 4-4A foe did all their damage. The Silver Foxes used four hits and a pair of L-E errors to push across four runs. Nelson avoided further problems as the senior right-hander struck out the final two batters of the inning with men on first and second.
Nelson gave way to classmate Jake Brazell in the sixth after another solid mound performance in which he scattered five hits while fanning four.
“We didn’t play very well behind Seth,” Stokes said. “They had a couple hits, we didn’t field the ball on the bunt, we didn’t cover first base on a slow roller and we didn’t get an out on a ball that we should have gotten one; it all kind of steamrolled. You take that inning away and it’s still 0-0.”
Ziesing would leave after six innings, the final five of which he did not allow a hit after giving up consecutive singles to Cody Mailly and Bradwin Salmond to open the game.
“His pitch had some run to it,” Stokes said of Ziesing. “We kept telling our kids that we had to hit the fastball to the back side and that we couldn’t fight that angle because he had too much movement and if you try to pull it, you’re going to roll over it.”
It was an entirely different story with Fant, who walked Ethan Bradley to open the seventh before Mikey Branham lined a pinch-hit single to left. When Danny Bowen walked with one out, it loaded the bases for Hunter McManus whose grounder to shortstop forced courtesy runner Shon Belton at second while Bradley scored. A throwing error on the attempt for a double play allowed Branham to come in with the second run.
Mailly kept the rally alive with a two-out single, his second hit of the game. Salmond then drew a walk to load the bases only to see Fant end the threat and the game with a strikeout.
The Demons had four hits on the night with two coming in the first and the second pair in the seventh inning. Mailly, a senior who was moved from second base to shorstop, had a pair of singles while reaching base three times from his leadoff slot in the batting order.
“We didn’t strike out much ... we put the ball in play,” Stokes said of his team’s offense on Thursday afternoon. “This week has been a good experience for our kids.”
Stokes said he and his team enjoyed swinging the wooden bats but said the Demons now had to look ahead to Tuesday’s key home date with Ridge View in a game which could well decide where L-E will kick off its postseason journey.
“I just talked to our guys and told them that they’re going to look back at this tournament and it’s going to be a distant memory for all of us,” he said. “(This) week, we have to come out with that excitement that we had. We might be going through a little lull now, maybe. But it’s better that it happens now than in the playoffs.”

Tourney notebook: After not having enough players when they met to come to Camden on Thursday morning, Lower Richland had to get some players, presumably from the junior varsity squad, in order to field a full team to play fellow Region 4-AAA entry Westwood in that day’s opener.
Arriving just a few minutes before that day’s scheduled 11 a.m. first pitch, the game was delayed but it was worth the wait for the Diamond Hornets who knocked off Westwood to complete an interesting series appearance with a 3-1 record.
In Thursday’s second game of the day, Ridge View finished 2-2 for the week in blanking South Florence, 4-0. The Bruins ended their stay in Camden with a 2-2 mark.

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