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RNE goes small to top Dogs for tourney title

Posted: April 18, 2014 10:48 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

As spacious as American Legion Park is, Richland Northeast could have almost done without the outfield grass in topping host Camden, 5-2, in the Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Classic championship game Thursday night.
The visiting Cavaliers scored three runs in the sixth and tacked on two more in the seventh while having just two solid singles along with a Texas League single and a pair of bunts to show for their five hits. In all, Thane Maness’ offense did not vary from their successful script in laying down six bunts in finishing the week with a 4-0 record.
Camden, meanwhile, was held scoreless for six frames by RNE junior right-hander Jake Mueller. The Wake Forest commit gave up three of his four hits on the night in Camden’s two-run seventh. He went 4.2 innings before allowing a hit, a Bennett Harrelson single, to center in the bottom half of the fifth.
Facing their soon-to-be conference foe, the Bulldogs received a taste of what has become RNE’s M.O. in the tourney finale.
“They are a very, very solid team,” said CHS head coach Denny Beckley of the Cavaliers. “They make you make plays and they don’t make many mistakes. They’re known for making teams beat themselves. They played that to a ‘T’ tonight.”
While Mueller was breezing along so, too, was Camden starter Ross Hough. The junior lefty, who did not pick up a glove in 2013 after having undergone Tommy John surgery, turned in his best mound performance of the season. Hough worked six innings in which he allowed three runs on as many hits after facing the minimum nine batters through the first three frames.
Receiving that type of effort from Hough, who threw more than 90 pitches, was an encouraging sign for a CHS team which has two crucial 4-AAA games this week  including Wednesday’s make-up contest at Dreher.
“We’re very excited about the progress Ross made from his last start to this one,” Beckley said. “His mannerisms looked so much more intense. He looked so much more confident. This is a big step in the right direction for him.”
After missing a chance to break a scoreless tie after having placed a runner on second with no outs in the fifth, the Bulldogs saw RNE go small in a three-run top of the sixth. Ryne Maness drew a leadoff walk before Joe Stanton was called on to bunt Maness over. But both runners were safe on the play with a throwing error putting both in scoring position with no outs.
With one gone, Justin Davidson plated Maness with a suicide squeeze bunt. Zach Crumlich then made it 2-0 when his two-out single to left drove in Stanton. An error on the play allowed Crumlich to land on third. He scored the third run on Nick Gelting’s two-out bunt single.
The visitors would tack on two more runs in the seventh, using a CHS error and an RBI double from Stanton to cushion its lead to 5-0.
Camden, meanwhile, was unable to get anything going for six innings against Mueller.
“He’s a strike-throwing machine,” Beckley said of Mueller. “He just mixed up his pitches well and hit his spots. Hat’s off to him.”
Mueller’s night of fun got serious in the seventh which opened with Lawson Stokes sending a leadoff single to center. Nick Tucker followed with a hit of the same variety and when the ball got through for an error, Stokes landed on third with Tucker on second with no outs. Hough, who was hit by Mueller offerings in each of his first two at-bats, then roped a two-run double to left and suddenly, the Dogs were in business.
Mueller, however, would get a disputed third strike call for the first out before retiring the final two outs on a fly to left and a swinging strikeout to put an end to the tournament.
The Bulldogs ended the week with a 3-1 record. Beckley hopes to build on this run in conference games at Dreher and then, a key Friday home game with Chapin, which sits a game ahead of the Bulldogs in second place in Region 4-AAA. The Bulldogs will travel to Hartsville on Tuesday for a non-conference contest.
“We played well this week. We did some really good things,” Beckley said. “For me, the biggest thing is that we continue to move forward and not go backwards. We took some steps in the right direction this week and we are really close to being at that peak phase, which has been our goal.
“We have to keep coming to work, keep working hard and get ready for some huge games (this) week.”

Tourney honors: Following the completion of the four-day tournament, played at American Legion Field and at Richland Northeast until Thursday’s final quadurpleheader, players from both CHS and Lugoff-Elgin were honored.
Earning all-tournament honors for the Bulldogs were Nick Tucker and Ross Hough. The academic award for the team went to Bennett Harrelson.
For Lugoff-Elgin, freshman Elliott Campbell was named to the all-tourney team while Blake Serpas was prsented with the academic award.

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