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Dogs pay back Chapin with 5-1 win

Camden closing in on second seed

Posted: April 26, 2014 12:06 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Leaving nothing to chance, Camden head coach Denny Beckley signaled Josh Hough to run to the bullpen as soon as Chapin opened the top of the seventh of Friday’s game with back-to-back singles.
Turns out, Hough was called back in a batter later when Camden shortstop Cole Irick jumped as high as he could to snare a rocket off the bat of Evan Estridge. Irick then fired a strike to first baseman Lawson Stokes to double up Chandler Engle and, just like that, the Bulldogs had all but clinched second place in Region 4-AAA with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Eagles at American Legion Park.
Camden (8-3 in 4-AAA) can lock up a first round state playoff home game with a win tonight over visiting Lower Richland on Senior Night. Should the Dogs beat LR tonight, they would host the third-place finisher from Region 3 (possibly Chester, Woodruff or Clinton) on Friday night.
“It’s been one of our goals all year long,” Beckley said of opening the state tourney at home. “We’ve been through some trials and tribulations this season and we feel like that has prepared us for what is to come in the playoffs. We are certainly more comfortable here and, to get on a playoff run, it’s always a help to have that home field advantage which you get as a higher seed.”
As has been the case in many a big game this season, Beckley handed the ball to Grey Hoke and the senior came through with a complete game seven-hitter with seven strikeouts. And when Hoke needed a big play behind him, his defense delivered.
In addition to Irick’s seventh-inning stab, there was centerfielder Ross Hough’s highlight reel-worthy diving grab of Jordan O’Cain’s sinking liner with a man on first with one gone in the top of the fourth which preserved a 1-0 lead.
After struggling on defense in Wednesday’s win over Dreher, the Bulldogs were flawless with the glove on this night in not committing an error in the field. That, Beckley said, allowed Hoke to worry about himself while leaving the rest up to his defense.
“He’s really started to gain confidence in his defense,” Beckley said of Hoke. “Earlier in the year, I don’t think we were not quite as solid defensively and I think Grey thought he had to do more on the mound. Now, he’s more relaxed out there.”
Not only did the hosts come up with big plays on defense, but when this game was still in doubt they had some big hits in key situations. None was bigger than Carson Morgan’s two-run double to deep left with two gone in the fifth which gave the Dogs a comfortable 5-1 advantage. The two-bagger came after Chapin closed the gap to 2-1 with a run in the top of the fifth.
Lawson Stokes, who collected two hits to give him nine in 12 at-bats for the week, got Camden going by lining a one-out single to center. Nick Tucker, who had two hits batting in the fourth slot, followed with another single through the box. Ross Hough then followed by sending a long, opposite field fly ball to right field which Chapin’s Matt Charpia misjudged as Hough wound up with a double while Stokes came around from second to make it 3-1.
“Lawson has been seeing the ball really well; a lot of our guys have,” Beckley said. “What a tremendous week for Lawson, you can just see the confidence in his body language at the plate and that’s a big deal for us.”
With men on second and third, Bennett Harrelson was called out on a fastball which looked to be low and away from the right-handed batter which caused more than a few raised eyebrows in and around the Bulldog dugout.
Morgan softened the blow, a batter later, by crushing an Estridge offering to deep left to plate both Hough and Zach Boykin, who was the courtesy runner for Tucker, as the lead ballooned to 5-1.
“That was huge,” Beckley said of Morgan’s drive which landed a foot or two inside the foul line in left. “Bennett had a questionable strikeout for the first out. Bennett had put together two very good at-bats earlier and that could have been one of those possible momentum swings, then Carson gave the momentum right back to us with that big hit.”
Chapin threatened right off the bat as leadoff batter Thomas Harper reached on a game-opening walk. With one gone, Engle singled to left to put runners on the corners. Chapin then sent Engle on a steal of second. Tucker’s throw from home, however, was intercepted by second baseman Tyler Jordan, who made the grab from the grass apron in front of second base as Harper broke for home on the play. But Jordan threw a strike to Tucker who made the tag on Harper several feet in front of the plate for the second out in a scoreless top of the first.
The hosts staked Hoke to a quick 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the first as Stokes delivered a two-out single to left and then, stole second before being lifted for pinch-runner Austin Sheheen. After Tucker singled to left to put runners on the corners, Ross Hough then sent a run-scoring single to left for the first of his three hits on the night.
Not all was neat and tidy for Hoke who hit a pair of batters on consecutive pitches with one gone in a top of the third in which the Eagles left the bases filled as Ross Hough tracked down an Estridge liner in center for the third out.
Camden tacked on a second run in the fourth with Ross Hough getting on with a leadoff bunt single before swiping second. With one out and Hough at third, Harrelson lined an opposite field single to right to drive Hough home from second base for the 2-0 lead.
Chapin broke up Hoke’s bid for the shutout in the fifth as Anthony Gonzalez legged out a two-out infield single. He scored on an Estridge single which glanced off the glove of a diving Will Abbott at third base while landed in left field. Further damage was avoided when Stokes took to the air at first base to come down with a high throw from Irick for the third out.
The Bulldogs were hardly out of the woods, yet.
Chapin opened the seventh with consecutive singles from Gonzalez and Engle, the latter of which was a high chopper to Irick. But the potential rally was snuffed out when Irick went up to rob Estridge of what was probably going to be an extra base hit. And when his throw nailed Engle at first, it allowed Beckley and company a chance to breathe a sigh of relief in getting past a team which run-ruled the Dogs, 10-0, earlier this season.
 “I think Cole wanted to make up for the bad read on the high-hopper ... but that was tough play,” Beckley said of the top of the seventh. “He was thinking two (double play), right away, but the ball played him.
“He got way up there (on Estridge’s liner) and then, he threw a strike to first base. What a throw he made there.”
Led by Ross Hough’s three-hit night and a pair each off the bats of Stokes, Tucker, Harrelson and Morgan, Camden collected 11 hits. Hough and Morgan each drove in two runs with Harrelson plating another.
“Coach (Brian) Kersey, Coach (Casey) Faulkenberry and Coach (Josh) Wilson work relentlessly with our hitters on getting good bat extension,” Beckley said of his offense. “We’re really coming around at the right time of the season.”
And facing Chapin for the first since the Eagles handed Hoke his lone loss in six decisions this season, the 6-foot-2 lefty followed a familiar script in getting better as the game goes along. “The thing about Grey which has been a constant all season,” Beckley said of Hoke, “is his mental toughness. He doesn’t panic in the tough situations.
“He did a great job of working ahead in the count tonight; so many times, it was 0-1. It was just a real solid outing for him.”

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