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17ers pull away from Cheraw

Posted: June 10, 2014 2:05 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Just when it looked as if Kershaw County might enjoy a little additional down time on a warm Monday evening, Cheraw made the locals pull a regular shift.
Leading 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Post 17 was poised to possibly end this League III outing in seven innings. Instead, Cheraw hung in there only to come out on the short end of an 8-4 decision at steamy American Legion Park.
The win gave the hosts a 3-1 mark in League III action and a 6-3 overall record. Cheraw slipped to 2-4 in league play heading into tonight’s second game of the three-game series to be played at Tom Brewer Field at Cheraw High School.
KC head coach Craig Smith was hoping his team would be able to push across enough runs to end the game in seven innings by the 10-run rule. But when Post 23 scored three times in the seventh, it all but assured that this one would go the distance.
With the temperature heating up and with this game kicking off a four-game week, Smith would have welcomed a short night with open arms, if for no other reason, to save some of his team’s own arms.
“We had them on the ropes and we could have gone ahead and put it away but we didn’t,” he said. “We haven’t learned how to dominate an opponent, yet. That’s one thing we have to get better at doing.
“Legion ball is a marathon, not a sprint. Our guys have to learn that when we’re up six, seven or eight runs that we have to put two or three more (runs) on the board and get this thing over because it gives us a little more rest.”
Zac Bowers worked the first six frames for the 17ers, allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts en route to earning his third win in as many decisions. Will Detwiler worked three batters in the seventh before being lifted for Mikey Branham, who closed the game and did not allow a run in picking up the three-inning save.
“Zac went out and threw a heck of a game for us,” Smith said of Bowers, who was lifted after having thrown better than 90 pitches on the warmest night of the season, thus far. “He located his pitches very well.
“I can’t say enough about Mikey Branham, either. He came in and filled up the zone and our defense played well behind him. That’s what we expect our pitchers to do and, we hold our position guys accountable behind them.”
The only blip on Bowers’ screen came when the guests strung together three consecutive two-out singles in the second with the third of those, Chase Freeman’s liner through the box, plating Dylan Driggers from third with the game’s first run.
Facing Sam Pruitt, a USC-Lancaster pitcher who was recently added to the Post 23 roster, the locals were impatient early on as the Cheraw right-hander breezed through the first two innings, facing the minimum six batters. Smith received a scouting report from Dalzell-Shaw head coach Steve Campbell on Pruitt. Smith was told that against the Jets, Pruitt threw 78 pitches in three innings. Smith’s advice to his batters was to be patient at the plate. His words started taking effect in the home half of the third.
Bradwin Salmond opened the third by working Pruitt for a walk. After being bunted over to second by Christian Flick, Salmond went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a balk to even things at 1-1.
An inning later, Tyler Bowers opened the bottom of the fourth by taking a pitch the other way to left. The liner skidded past Rodney McCoy as Bowers landed on third with a leadoff triple. He scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch as Pruitt began to struggle with his control.
“We figured if he had trouble locating and that if we swung at the pitches we are supposed to swing at and could get to their bullpen,” Smith said, “we’d be able to do a little damage.”
After having scored two unearned runs, the 17ers tacked on two runs in the fifth while chasing Pruitt from the box in the process. Russ Radcliff, who was moved into the leadoff slot from the three hole, rapped a one-out single to left and took second when McCoy failed to come up with the ball cleanly. Radcliff made it a 3-1 game, scoring on Bowers’ two-out single to right. When Lawson Stokes followed with a walk, it brought Joseph Rollings to the mound.
With Bowers on second and Stokes on first, Gunner Smith greeted Rollings by lining a run-scoring single to left to make this a 4-1 game.
Cheraw’s bullpen struggled in the sixth as the hosts scored four times on as many hits to hike their lead to 8-1.
As was the case an inning earlier, the rally started with one out as Flick drew a walk from Rollings and stole second. He scored when Broderick Gaither sent an RBI single to center before talking both second and third on wild pitches. That led to Radcliff’s second single in as many innings driving in Gaither to make it 5-1.
Radcliff manufactured his own run. He stole second and third --- his second and third swipes of the night --- while scoring when the throw to the bag on the latter sailed into left field.
With one still gone, Blake Serpas ended Rollings’ night as he doubled to left. With two outs and Tristan Campbell on the mound as the third of four Post 23 pitchers, Stokes went the opposite way, sending a run-scoring single into right to make it an 8-1 lead.
“We got some timely hitting in the sixth and scored some needed runs there to give us some breathing room,” Smith said.
Post 17 collected seven of its nine hits on the evening in the fifth and sixth frames in a game in which Radcliff had two hits and three stolen bases from the leadoff spot in the order while Bowers followed up his two-hit, four RBI game in Friday’s win over Florence with a two-hit, one RBI night on Monday.
“We put Russ at the top and he gives us great speed on the bases as well as being a good contact hitter,” Smith said of Radcliff. “He’s a smart baseball player who understands the base running philosophy very well. We were able to use our base running philosophy several times tonight with him on base and moving him up and stealing second and third.
“Tyler (Bowers) is one of those kids that you want to get him as many at-bats as you possibly can because, sooner or later, he’s going to bust out and when he does, it’s going to be three or four hits a night. He’s coming around.”
Smith said his offense has been one which has changed several times already in the first nine games of the season. That, he said, is not a bad thing as he plugs hot bats where they are needed in the order.
“We’ve played nine games and we’ve seen a different lineup almost every time out,” he said. “We have moved kids from the one hole to the nine hole, from the three hole to the five hole and from the six hole to the four hole (in the batting order.)
“We have that kind of flexibility with this team. It’s a pleasure to coach guys like that who you can put in different spots when a guy’s not hitting well and you really don’t  lose a lot.”
Cheraw threw a scare into the 17ers in the seventh as Detwiler, who is scheduled to start tonight’s game, walked the first three batters he faced before Branham was called on. The right-hander got out of the jam in which Post 23 scored three times. But that would be it as Branham quieted the Cheraw bats the rest of the way.
As he was making his way to talk to his team after the win, Smith said he could sense that his normally loose squad was anything but as they arrived for pre-game batting practice on Monday.
 “Our guys seemed a little tight when they got here tonight,” he said. “I don’t know if it was because we didn’t have any league games last week … but these guys understand how important league play is for us. We’ve come out tight in their first games of both our series.
 “We have 18 guys who are really playing together, right now. I’ve never coached a Legion team like this one where we don’t have any egos. They’re like a family. They pull for one another and they hold each other accountable. They expect that if they do their job that the other man is going to do their job. As long as they do that, we’re going to be fine.”

Keeping POSTed: The four-run victory snapped an 0-for-Monday night skid for the 17ers who lost both their first two Monday games of the season this year … In other League III games on Monday, Sumter stayed atop the circuit with a 4-0 mark after closing out Hartsville, 12-1, in seven innings while Dalzell-Shaw edged Manning-Santee, 5-4 … Post 17 went from the group of “others” to being ranked ninth in this week’s South Carolina American Legion Baseball Top 10 rankings on scvarsity.com. Greenville tops the rankings followed by Sumter. In spite of losing to the 17ers, 12-8, last Friday, Florence remained in the fourth slot … Cheraw returns to American Legion Park Thursday for a 7 p.m. game with Post 17 expected to send Grayson King (1-1) to the mound.

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