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Errors do in 17ers in 9-6 setback

Posted: June 3, 2014 10:46 a.m.
Updated: June 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

POST 17’S BRODERICK GAITHER slides safely into third base after having avoided the tag of Columbia Northeast pitcher Harrison Merck. Covering third on the play, at left, is third baseman Joe Stanton.

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There were two ways to view Kershaw County Post 17’s 9-6 loss to visiting Northeast Columbia Monday night.
First, it was a non-league game so the final result will have no bearing on the hosts’ state tournament chances. In this same vein, it should be pointed out that the 17ers did not use any of their regular rotation of starting pitchers. Then, there is the way KC head coach Craig Smith looked as this contest.
On a night in which the locals sent out a rising sophomore and was relieved by a rising freshman, KC’s defense made life rough on Elliott Campbell and Bradwin Salmond and Jake Brazell, the latter of whom came on in the seventh, by committing five errors behind the trio of pitchers.
Following a night in which his team fell to 4-3 overall, Smith was sympathetic to the plight of his trio of throwers.
“It was a non-league game and we played some other guys tonight,” Smith said. “We threw some guys who are down in our rotation who didn’t throw badly. We did not play defense behind them … bottom line.
“Elliott didn’t know he was starting until he got here tonight and he did not throw a bad game; it wasn’t his best but he didn’t throw badly. Bradwin came in and did what Bradwin does; he came in and threw strikes for us. His curveball was effective and fooled a lot of their hitters. And Jake Brazell came in tonight and threw the ball well. But again, we cannot commit five or six errors in a ballgame and expect to win, that’s not going to happen for us.”
The visitors were hardly stellar with the leather, as well, in equaling P-17’s five miscues in the field in what was hardly a crisply played game. KC was doubled up in the hits department, 14-7, with Tyler Bowers having three while Lawson Stokes added two more hits --- giving him eight in the last three games --- to lead the hosts’ offensive attack.
NE Columbia scored the first four runs of the night in the third inning after Campbell, a rising sophomore at Lugoff-Elgin, worked two scoreless frames.
Wake Forest commit Jake Mueller led off the top of the third with a walk. Consecutive singles by Bean Hearing and Austin Beskid made it a 1-0 game before Xavier Boles smacked a two-run double to right. Campbell was chased from the box in favor of Salmond, who was greeted by Ethan Jadziniack’s single to right.
Salmond, a rising freshman at L-E, avoided further damage by getting the next three batters on a strikeout and a pair of ground outs as the guests left runners on second and third.
The visitors tacked on an unearned run in the fourth to go on top, 5-0, before the locals were able to get to NE starter Harrison Merck for a five-spot in the bottom of the fourth.
Stokes kick-started things with an opposite field single to right and went to third when Grayson King’s grounder to third was booted for a two-base error. Bowers followed when he pulled a run-scoring single to right to put runners on the corners for Gunner Smith, whose grounder to short was played into an error allowing King to come in with the second run.
Ethan Beasley kept the inning alive by drawing a one-out walk. With two gone, Austin Hayes singled to left to plate Smith when the ball got past Will Musser, Bradley came in with the fourth run. Hayes knotted things at five when he scored from second when a Blake Serpas grounder to third was played into the guests’ fourth error in an inning in which the 17ers did their damage on three hits and a pair of walks.
NE Columbia scored the go-ahead run in the sixth and tacked on two unearned runs in the seventh as Salmond gave way to Brazell who gave up the ninth run in the eighth.
Post 17 squandered scoring opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings, leaving men on first and second in the former and second and third in the latter, while coming up empty both times. In the seventh, Russ Radcliff was left hanging on third after drilling a two-out triple to the alley in left center.
“We had a couple opportunities late in the game to score more runs but we couldn’t get the timely hit when we needed it,” Smith said. “But, we get the ‘W’ if we play defense. That’s the bottom line.”
KC got to Beskid, who came in relief of Merck to put out the potential fire in the sixth, for a run in the eighth  as Broderick Gaither got aboard on a one-out walk --- his fourth of the night --- and would take both third base and home on wild pitches to draw the hosts to within 9-6.
Smith said all his pitchers are going to the mound with confidence in what they are learning from pitching coach Will Dorton. But, he added, they cannot make plays on balls hit behind them.
“Our staff did a great job tonight,” Smith said. “Will is doing a heck of a job with those boys and, whoever it is, all the way from our college pitcher to our eighth-grade pitcher, they go to the mound with a lot of confidence in what Will is telling them and they believe they can win. Our defense just has to do the job behind them.”
Smith played mix-and-match with his lineup, using this game to get a look at players in different positions. Monday’s game kicked off a unique two-game week in which the locals head to Florence on Friday for another non-League III contest. After that comes a steady diet of playing anywhere from three to six games in a week, thanks to participating in the three-day Palmetto Invitational on June 27-29.
Friday’s game at perennial state power Florence, Smith said, will be a good lead into what he calls “the grind” of the American Legion baseball season.
“That’s one reason why we scheduled this game,” he said. “Florence is going to be good competition. They have nine college players on that team, but we’re going to go down there and pin our ears back and see what we can do with them. But it doesn’t matter if we go down there and have our pitchers locating all night: If we cannot play good defense behind them, we’re not going to be successful Friday night, either.
“We have to play good defense because, in this league, nobody goes out and strikes out 18, 19 or 20 guys like in high school. Pitchers are not going to overpower the hitters in this league because the hitters are too good. The ball is going to be put in play and we have to make the plays behind our pitchers.”

Keeping POSTed: Resting their core four starting pitchers, the 17ers are expected to send Grayson King to the mound on Friday … the locals return to League III play next Monday when Cheraw comes to town to kick off a three-game series which continues in Cheraw next Wednesday and ends in Camden on Thursday. Zac Bowers is expected to get the starting nod on Monday with Grey Hoke or Will Detwiler taking the hill Wednesday and/or Thursday nights … neither Post 17 or Sumter is playing a league game this week with Post 15 having the entire week off.


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