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Bowers’ gem helps extend P-17ers win streak to six

Posted: June 19, 2014 9:38 a.m.
Updated: June 20, 2014 5:00 a.m.

On a night when runs were as rare as a breeze, Kershaw County’s Zac Bowers and Russell Thompson of Manning-Santee took turns cooling off the opposing bats.
In the end, however, it was Bowers holding the upper hand in the battle of right-handers as host Post 17 won its sixth straight game, 3-1, Wednesday night at sun-baked American Legion Park.
KC improved to 6-1 in League III play and 10-3 overall heading into Thursday’s make-up game at Cheraw. Post 68 fell to 3-10 and 3-8 in League III contests. The same two teams close their three-game season series tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Manning High School.
If this evening’s contest is anything like Wednesday’s, it should be a dandy.
Bowers, an Erskine signee, went the full nine innings allowing three hits, fanning 12, hitting one and walking a batter in picking up his fourth win in as many decisions. During a stretch between the second and seventh frames, Bowers retired 14 straight 14 Post 68ers.
Not to be outdone, the Presbyterian-bound Thompson allowed just six hits in eight innings of work in which he struck out five. He issued one walk and hit a batter while allowing just one earned run in a neatly played game which took one hour and 58 minutes to complete.
Coming off weekend performance in which he threw four innings and fanned five in the North-South All-Star games in Myrtle Beach, Bowers was dominant on this night.
“Zac was spot-on all night,” said KC head coach Craig Smith. “His M.O. is, if he struggles, it’s generally going to be in the first or second innings. When he gets to the third inning, it’s like he flips the cruise control on and he sits back and does his thing the rest of the night.
“He went out and hit his spots and was very effective. That’s a reflection on (pitching coach) Will Dorton. Will is doing one heck of a job with our pitchers. They don’t think there’s anybody they can’t beat when they go to the mound.”
Across the way, M-S coach G.G. Cutter said Thompson deserved a better fate than he received. Thompson’s lone issue on this night was that Bowers was just a little better.
“He pitched well enough for us to win the game,” Cutter said of Thompson’s performance. “I thought Russell pitched real well. He threw 90-something pitches. He was on and he felt good. We just need runs.
“And their pitcher pitched well enough for them to win the game; they only had one earned run. It was a battle. We had two errors in that (fifth) inning and gave them a run. Then, they got two hits in (the sixth) inning, with that big triple, to score a run.”
Post 68 scored its lone run of the night in the top of the second as Mark Pipkin lined a leadoff single to center, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan Knowlton’s two-out single to center for a 1-0 lead. Bowers then got J.T. Eppley to foul out to first baseman Gunner Smith to end the inning and begin a stretch in which the guests would not get a runner on base until Pipkin slapped a one-out single through the box in the top half of the seventh.
Post 17 evened things at 1-1 with a run in the third.
Russ Radcliff, who figured in all three KC runs, reached on an opposite-field, one-out single to right. Thompson then hit Blake Serpas on the ankle and Tyler Bowers in the torso area to load the bases with one still gone. Radcliff scored the hosts’ first run when he came in on Lawson Stokes’ ground out to second.
Radcliff would, again, get things started in the fifth, reaching on a leadoff two-base error on a chopper to shortstop which went into left field with Radcliff not slowing down until he reached second. With one out, Tyler Bowers sent a grounder to Pipkin at first base. Pipkin threw to third in an attempt to gun down Radcliff, who went airborne and dived over Knowlton, who was covering the bag. Radcliff came in with the eventual winning run, sprinting home on Gunner Smith’s chopper to Knowlton at third base for the second out.
Smith said it was good to see his team get a hit, here and there, and then put the ball in play to push across much-needed runs.
“Our pitcher had to throw well, our defense had to play well and we had to get on base and try to manufacture runs,” he said. “I’m just proud of our guys. They’re working hard … they really are.”
It was Radcliff who supplied the insurance run in the sixth. After Austin Hayes drilled a one-out single to center, Radcliff drove a two-out, opposite field triple to right to plate Hayes from first base for the 3-1 lead.
That would be more than enough run support for Bowers who retired the final eight Post 68 batters as the visitors did not advance a runner past first base after scoring its run in the second.
“(Bowers) was throwing his curveball for strikes and when he didn’t, we were chasing it,” Cutter said. “He had control of all his pitches and we just couldn’t get on it.”
The sidearm-throwing Thompson set down the final seven batters he faced on a night in which he kept the KC batters guessing.
“That ball was moving in all four directions when it came in up there,” Craig Smith said of Thompson’s pitching. “It’s going away from guys, it going in on guys, it’s going down and coming up. He stayed down in the zone all night and he was really effective against our hitters. We got some big hits and put the ball in play when we needed to; Russ’s triple real big for us.”
In what was easily P-17’s best defensive --- no errors ---, best-pitched and lowest-scoring game of the season, Smith said this is exactly what the doctor ordered.
“We needed a game like tonight; a close, low-scoring ballgame,” he said. “Tonight’s the first game where we didn’t make an error. And we got some good hits at the right time.
“This game is going to serve us well as we try and prove more points to our kids about what we need to do. You’re going to have games like this once you get into the state playoffs and you’re going to have to execute to win them.”

Keeping POSTed: Zac Bowers and Grey Hoke, who picked up the win in Monday’s 12-4 victory over Manning-Santee, are now a combined 7-0 on the season … When he was hit by a pitch in the third inning, it was the third time in two games that Serpas was struck by a pitch against Post 68. He played the rest of the game while noticeably limping as the area around the ankle swelled up, considerably, as the night went on … With Christian Flick on vacation, that left the catching duties for this four-game week up to Hayes … Radcliff’s night’s included collecting two of KC’s six hits, scoring twice and driving in a run.

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