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Nine-run fifth propels P-7 past Jets

Posted: May 30, 2014 10:16 a.m.
Updated: June 2, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It was only one game, but it sure seemed as if Kershaw County American Legion baseball coach Craig Smith was coaching two.
One night after a dismal 12-2 loss to Dalzell-Shaw in a game stopped by the 10-run rule in the bottom of the seventh, KC Post 17 evened the three-game opening week series against the Jets with a 13-7 victory in Thursday’s home opener at American Legion Park in Camden.
The win evened the locals’ League III record at 1-1 while they improved to 3-2 overall. Dalzell-Shaw, which was scheduled to host the 17ers on Friday in Rembert, went to 1-1 in League III play.
Harping on his team’s nine-error, nine-walk Wednesday night debacle prior to Thursday’s game, Smith saw the hosts commit just two miscues in the field while a trio of pitchers allowed just a pair of walks in a contest halted in the top of the third inning for 30 minutes after thunder, accompanied by a bolt of lightning, sent both players and fans scurrying for shelter.
KC turned this night in its favor by sending 14 batters to the plate in a nine-run bottom of the fifth which broke open a 4-4 game. When the contest finally ended, more than three hours after it started, Smith was able to crack a smile.
“It was very important, especially after last night,” he said of the win. “I’ve never coached in a ballgame like we had (Wednesday) night with all the errors and walks. There’s not a defense in the books for walks and not making the routine plays.
“For us to be good, we have to pound the zone with our pitching staff and we have to make the routine plays behind them. We didn’t do either of those (Wednesday) night.”
KC sent recent Citadel signee Grey Hoke to the mound, who ate his ticket to that evening’s Luke Bryan concert in order to pitch this game. The 6-foot-3 lefty worked the first five innings and came into the dugout after his 93-pitch stint with the game knotted at 4-4. He would get the victory after the 17ers’ offense exploded for nine runs while going through a trio of Post 175 pitchers in the process.
Russ Radcliff, who had two of the hosts’ 10 hits on the night, started the fifth by legging out an infield single off Jets’ starter Andrew Wrenn. Tyler Bowers then got aboard when his fly ball was dropped by the Post 175 third baseman. Lawson Stokes followed by laying down a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single and the second of his three hits to load the bases with no outs.
When Wrenn walked Grayson King to plate Radcliff, it ended his night as Chad Jones came on in relief. The left-hander struggled out of the box, issuing consecutive walks to Ethan Beasley and Christian Flick to bring across runs six and seven.
Bradwin Salmond then dealt a crushing blow to the guests as he sent a 2-1 fastball into the gap in left center for a double which cleared the bases as the lead mushroomed to 10-4. With one gone, Radcliff greeted reliever Cole Benanhaley with his second single of the frame to put runners on the corners. Radcliff then swiped second and when the throw went to the bag, Salmond took off and stole home on the back end of the double steal.
With Radcliff on second, Bowers sent a two-out fly ball to second which was dropped as Radcliff came home on the error. Bowers made it a 13-4 lead when he came in from first on Stokes’ opposite field triple to right.
When the dust had finally settled, the 17ers had strung together five hits while taking advantage of two errors, four walks, a hit batter while having stolen four bases.
“We had some quality at-bats tonight which we needed after last night when we swung at some pitches that we shouldn’t have,” Smith said of the game-changing fifth frame. “We got runners on and were able to implement our base running philosophy while putting pressure on their defense. We stole some bags and created some opportunities to put the ball in play through some holes and score some runs.”
KC staked Hoke to a 2-0 lead by scoring a pair in the bottom of the second off Wrenn.
Stokes opened the inning by being hit by a pitch before being bunted over to second by King. He moved to third on a balk. With one gone, Beasley worked his way for a walk and quickly stole second to put runners on second and third for Flick, whose single through the box for his first American Legion hit brought both runners home.
Smith said Flick’s single was just what his offense needed to get them out of the doldrums.
“Christian Flick had a big at-bat for us to score those first two runs. That kind of erased everything from last night and got us going tonight,” said the third-year P-17 boss. “He also did a great job behind the plate for us.”
The Jets answered the KC pair by scoring three runs in the third on four hits with just one leaving the infield. Two singles which glanced off Hoke and a bunt single loaded the bases and with two outs, Shane Bishop lined a misjudged ball to center which drove in three runs as the visitors took a 3-2 lead.
Four of Dalzell-Shaw’s 12 hits on the night came in that inning.
“Grey Hoke did his thing. He located his pitches and threw well,” Smith said of Hoke’s performance.
“We had to show come character early because he had a rough third inning where he had three balls hit back at him and they weren’t routine plays; he did a great job just slowing the balls down.”
It did not take the 17ers long to regain the lead as Stokes lined a two-out single to left in the fourth. King followed that by sending a rocket over the fence in left to give the hosts a 4-3 advantage which was erased when the Jets scored once in the fourth in Michal Hoge’s two-out bloop single to center in what would be Hoke’s final inning of work after having thrown one inning in relief on Thursday.
After P-17’s nine-run outburst in the fifth, Benenhaley was able to shut the hosts down the rest of the way.
The Jets were unable to make any headway from the fifth through seventh innings against KC reliever Jake Brazell. The L-E graduate came on for Hoke in the fifth and threw one-hit ball in his first three innings in what would be a 75-pitch night in which the right-hander struck out five.
“Jake Brazell came in and pounded the zone,” Smith said. “Jake’s going to get the opportunity to throw at the next level. He came in and located all his pitches tonight and had good velocity; that’s what we need out of him. We’re throwing Jake in the fire and he did his job tonight.”
The Jets managed a run in the eighth after having loaded the bases with no outs. Brazell made sure the bags were left jammed in getting a strikeout and a line out to Beasley in right to quell the rally.
The visitors scored two more in the ninth to close the gap to 13-7. They had runners on first and second with one out as Mikey Branham came on for Brazell to get a strikeout and a comebacker to end the weather-interrupted game.
While pleased with the win, Smith acknowledged that with another hit here or there or, a better angle on a ball, the 17ers could have wrapped this one up in seven innings. But after Wednesday night, he was not ready to protest too loudly.
“We still have to get better in making the routine plays,” he said. “We had some fly balls that were dropped and we didn’t field a ground ball. We make those plays and we’re out of here an hour earlier.
“This game all boils down to pounding the zone, making the plays on defense and putting the ball in play. If we do those three things, we’re going to be very successful this summer. If we don’t do those things, it’s going to be a long summer.”

Keeping POSTed: P-7 pitcher Will Detwiler arrived late to the game, dressed in shirt and tie, after having attended a baccalaureate service at Heathwood Hall. When Salmond asked Detwiler where he had been, Detwiler told him that he was getting ready to graduate on Friday morning. Salmond, a former P-17 batboy, smiled back and Detwiler and said, “Yeah, I’m graduating, too, tomorrow … from the eighth grade.” … Thursday’s rains held off until the final batter of the night as the game was played in its entirety. That evening’s contest between Sumter and Manning-Santee was postponed due to rain while the P-17 Junior team’s game at Kingstree was stopped by rain, as well … Following Friday’s scheduled game at Dalzell-Shaw, the 17ers will return home tonight to host Richland Post 6 in a non-league game. The locals will then have off until heading to Florence Post 1 in another non-league game on Friday.

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