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Dogs naild down second seed after surviving LR scare

Posted: April 29, 2014 2:39 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2014 5:00 a.m.

This was a game in which Camden was supposed to romp to victory and carry a full head of steam into Friday’s opening round of the AAA state baseball playoffs.
Only problem was, somebody forgot to let Lower Richland in on the plan.
Needing only a win over the visiting Diamond Hornets in Monday’s Senior Night contest to sew up second place in Region 4-AAA, Camden got more than it bargained for on this night. The hosts needed to score twice in the bottom of the fifth to break a 1-1 stalemate to finally upend the conference cellar-dwellers, 3-1.
Camden will play host to Woodruff, which finished third in Region 3, in Friday’s AAA District 1 opener at 7 p.m. at American Legion Field.
In a game which some had written off as a “gimme” for a CHS team which won nine of its final 10 games of the regular season, Bulldog head coach Denny Beckley was sweating this one out as the guests carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. A Camden loss would have meant finishing third in Region 4-AAA and would have had the hosts traveling for Friday’s opening round contest.
“We are very fortunate that we did not get cut today,” Beckley said following a game in which each team had two hits.  “We were very lethargic and just went through the motions, thinking it was Lower Richland and that they would just roll over for us.
“They had a pitcher (Rod Lee) who threw strikes and had a good curveball. He’s gotten better. It was one of those crazy games where you just tip your hat to them. (LR) played a good game and they were fundamentally sound. Fortunately, we were able to do some things on the bases and got some runs across.”
Lee, a right-hander, went all six frames for the visitors, allowing an RBI double to Will Abbott and a run-scoring single from Cole Irick in the fourth and fifth frames, respectively. Camden went with a three-man set, starting with senior Josh Hough who went the first three innings, allowing a run on one hit. Abbott worked the next three and was the winning pitcher while Ross Hough came on in the seventh to record the save.
Mixing up his lineup to give his seniors a start in the field and at the plate on what was their night, Beckley watched as Josh Hough retired the first seven batters he faced before walking Fred Cunningham who was bunted to second by Toby Baker. Cunningham scored from second on Morris Belton’s two-out single to center to give LR a 1-0 lead after the top of the third.
Lee held Camden hitless through three, allowing Austen Haney to reach on a leadoff walk in the third only to have Haney left hanging on third base.
With his team still looking for its first hit with two gone in the bottom of the fourth, Beckley admitted to it not being the most comfortable situation for either he or his players.
“I didn’t panic,” he said, “but, obviously, I was very concerned. I was concerned during batting practice; I could feel how flat we were in BP. I was a stressball the whole game.”
Camden’s first break came when Nick Tucker was plunked by a Lee offering with two gone in the fourth before the CHS catcher was replaced by courtesy runner Zach Boykin. Abbott then lofted a fly ball to shallow left which Belton nearly got to, only to miss coming up with the shoestring catch. Boykin, who was running on the play, scored from first to tie things at one.
After Abbott’s second straight 1-2-3 inning of work, the Bulldogs scored a pair in the fifth on an infield single while taking advantage of LR’s lone error.
Haney drew a leadoff walk and stole second. With one out, Carson Morgan put runners on first and second as he was hit by a pitch. Getting a large lead, Haney broke for third and when the throw sailed into left field, he scored what would be the winning run as Morgan pulled in at second. After advancing to third on a Darius Smith ground out, Morgan scored when Irick legged out a grounder to third base which was stabbed by a diving A.J. Jenkins whose throw across the diamond was a hair late to try and get Irick.
Camden’s defense did the rest. In the sixth, Jontrai Jackson, who looped an opposite single which hit the left field foul line, was erased when he was gunned down by Tucker’s throw to second on a stolen base attempt. An inning later, Howard Henderson was hit by a Ross Hough pitch only to have Lee’s grounder to Irick turn into a double play as the Bulldog shortstop stepped on second before firing a strike to Lawson Stokes at first.
The trio of Josh Hough, Abbott and Ross Hough combined on a two-hitter while fanning nine. It was not, however, the pitching scenario which Beckley had envisioned coming into the Monday night game.
“We were hoping to score a few more runs and, maybe, get Devin (Beckley) time on the mound and, even Nick (Tucker) or Cole (Irick),” Beckley said, “… just to get everybody a little work this week. The game didn’t present itself like that and we didn’t want to rock the boat too much.
“Those guys did a great job of throwing strikes, though, and we made some pretty good plays behind them.”

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