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Dogs dump Dreher to wrap up tourney berth

Chapin in town Friday with second place on the line

Posted: April 24, 2014 2:52 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.

There is one school of thought that goes along the lines of using your big gun to get you into the playoffs and then, worry about the rest later.
Obviously, Denny Beckley does not subscribe to that theory.
Saving his team’s ace and hottest pitcher, Grey Hoke, for tonight’s game with visiting Chapin to decide the runner-up in Region 4-AAA, Beckley sent out sophomore Will Abbott for Wednesday’s road game at Dreher.
Needing, at least, one win in their final three conference games to assure themselves a spot in next Friday’s first round of the AAA state tournament, Camden’s 11-7 win over Dreher at Memorial Stadium ---long a chamber of horrors for Camden teams --- punched the Dogs’ postseason ticket.
The victory gave Beckley’s troops a 7-3 mark, good for third in Region 4-AAA. Sitting a spot ahead of them is Chapin, at 8-2, which comes into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game at American Legion Park with second place in the circuit, and a first round home tournament game, possibly hanging in the balance. Should Camden and the Eagles tie for second, the Dogs would get spot by virtue of their win over A.C. Flora.
Beckley saved Hoke for tonight, on nine days’ rest, while sending the 6-foot-3 Abbott to the mound on Wednesday for the biggest start of his two-year varsity career. But Hoke was waiting in the wings if things got tight.
“We were going to go with Will the whole time,” Beckley said when asked of his pre-game plan of attack for his pitching rotation. “But we talked to Grey and told him that we might call on him to finish this game if we needed him. Luckily, we came out swinging the bats well and didn’t need Grey.”
After an 11-hit night in a win over Region 5-AAA champion Hartsville on Tuesday, the Bulldogs banged Blue Devil pitching around for 15 hits one night later in a game in which the guests jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two and a half innings of play.
Camden struck for four runs in the top of the first with Darius Smith and Cole Irick getting on with consecutive singles. They were driven in by white-hot Lawson Stokes who had a two-run double to kick off his three-hit night after going 4-for-4 against Hartsville. Ross Hough then got on with a walk while Stokes made it 3-0, scoring on an Abbott single.
With men on the corners Zach Boykin, who was running for Abbott, took off for second. When the throw went there, it allowed Hough to come in on the double steal for a quick 4-0 lead.
The Dogs tacked on three more in the second with Stokes starting a two-run rally with another double. Nick Tucker then rapped an RBI single. Tucker made it 6-0 when he scored on a Hough single while Abbott plated Hough with a single. An inning later, the score went to 8-0 as Irick singled, stole second and scored when Tucker’s grounder was booted for an error.
The hosts took advantage of some shoddy CHS fielding to score three times in the third while trimming the deficit to 8-7 after four.
The Dogs tacked on a pair in the fifth as Smith led off with a single before scoring on Tucker’s second home run of the season; this a two-run shot to left center. An inning later, Abbott singled before being lifted in favor of Boykin, who went to third on Carson Morgan’s single on a hit and run. When the throw to second to try and get Morgan on the steal went wild, Boykin came in with the 11th run.
Abbott worked the first five innings, allowing four hits while only three of the seven runs scored on him were earned. Josh Hough came on and went the final two frames, allowing no runs on two hits with three strikeouts.
Stokes led the CHS offensive explosion with a three-hit night while Smith, Irick, Tucker, Abbott and Ross Hough had two apiece. Beckley credited hitting coach Brian Kersey and last week’s wooden bat tournament  as two of the key reasons for his team’s banging out 26 hits in their first two games this week.
“Coach Kersey preaches about extension and balance to all our hitters every day,” Beckley said. “Our guys are listening to his instruction and believing in it. It’s nice to see us peaking at the right time of the season.”
Beckley added that his batters learned from using wood bats to stay balanced in their approach at the plate.
“I don’t want to say it definitely does, but we believe that using wooden bats in those four games helps us,” he said. “It helped us last year and it looks like it is helping us again this season.
“Hopefully, our hitting will continue to carry over throughout the rest of the season.”

Tonight, the Bulldogs will have a chance for redemption against a Chapin squad which dealt Camden a 10-0 loss in the first meeting between the two sides this season. Add the prospect of starting the state tourney play at home as opposed to heading to Greenville County next Friday night, and Beckley said that motivation should not be a problem for his squad this evening.
“We went over there and laid an egg the last time we played Chapin,” Beckley said. “Our guys want to prove that we’re a better team than we showed at their place.
“We haven’t had a first round home playoff game in several years, so to have one here this year would really be big for us. It would be nice to have a home game, especially after all the work we’ve done to our field recently.”

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