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Abbott at his best down the stretch as Bulldogs get past A.C. Flora, 3-2

Posted: April 11, 2016 3:24 p.m.
Updated: April 12, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

CAMDEN’S CHRISTIAN FLICK CHARGES toward home plate ahead of the relay throw with the Bulldogs’ first run in Friday’s 3-2 win over A.C. Flora. CHS moved into a tie atop the Region 4-AAA standings with the victory.

Frustration was Camden’s seemingly constant companion through the first four and a half innings of Friday’s Region 4-AAA pairing with visiting A.C. Flora.

Through the first four frames, the Bulldogs trailed Flora, 2-1, as senior Will Abbott battled control issues on the mound --- to the tune of five walks --- while the CHS offense sputtered against Falcon lefty Charles Chapman, who held the hosts to an unearned run through four.

Things all changed for the better for the Dogs who got to Flora reliever Will Holstein for two runs in the home half of the fifth. Abbott made the one-run lead hold up as Camden came away with a 3-2 win and a two-game sweep over the traditional state power.

The news only got better for Denny Beckley and company when it was learned that Richland Northeast defeated league-leading and the state’s top-ranked team in Chapin, 3-2.

Before he learned of the Chapin loss which put his team in a first place tie atop Region 4-AAA with the Eagles with identical 5-1 records, Beckley was trying to get his breath back following his team’s getting past Andy Hallett’s charges. 

Not surprisingly, the first topic of conversation dealt with Abbott’s complete game performance. After a bumpy start, the 6-foot-4 right-hander was untouchable over the final three-plus frames. The Citadel signee set down the final 10 batters in order and struck out seven of the final nine Falcons he faced, including getting three punch outs in the seventh to seal the deal and pick up his fourth win in seven decisions.

Beckley said Abbott followed what has been a familiar script in getting off to a slow start before finding his groove later in the contest.

“Will’s always been kind of a late-starter guy. He was really keyed up tonight and issued several walks in the first two innings and two of them scored,” said the Bulldog boss. “Will’s M.O. has always been that he gets stronger as the game goes on and tonight was a great example of it. We’re really excited for him.”

The Falcons did all their damage in their first two at-bats. In the first inning, Josh Hernandez drew a leadoff walk and scored from first on a Johnny Hernandez two-out double to the gap in right center. An inning later, Leighton Long got aboard on a two-out free pass and scored from first when Andrew Walker followed by cracking a triple to right center. 

CHS senior catcher Christian Flick, who would have a big impact on this game at the plate, helped keep the deficit at just two runs as he gunned down Ryan Syrbe, who was wandering off first base, for the first out with a bullet to William Cobb at first before his throw to second nailed Josh Hernandez, who was trying to steal with Walker on third, for the final out of the inning.

While Abbott was trying to work out the kinks, Chapman somehow carried a shutout into the third inning.

In the bottom of the first, Nick Butler led things off by reaching on an error. Camden had runners on the corner with one gone only to have a line drive double play end the threat. 

In the second, Devin Beckley scalded a leadoff double down the left field line. An error --- one of five on the night for the guests --- on Abbott’s grounder followed as the Dogs had runners on second and third with no outs. But a failed suicide squeeze bunt led to the first of consecutive strikeouts for Chapman who came out unscathed by getting a comebacker to end the second.

“Twice,” Denny Beckley said, “we had runners on third with no outs and didn’t score. There were another one or two times when we had runners on third with one out and we didn’t score. 

“We were very disappointed with our situational hitting and not putting the ball in play. We felt if we put the ball in play on the ground that they would boot it. We were frustrated with that.”

Helped along by Flora’s problems in the field, the Dogs got to Chapman for a run in the third as Flick sent a two-out, opposite field single to right and then went to second on a wild pitch. When Cobb’s grounder to second was mishandled, it allowed Flick to come around from second with his team’s first run.

Abbott was not out of the woods, yet, though.

In the top of the fourth, Will Bethea had a one-out single to left and stole second before advancing to third on an error. Flora would, eventually, load the bases with two outs after Denny Beckley decided to issue an intentional walk to Josh Hernandez. The move paid off as Abbott got Lane Botkin to hit a ground ball to second baseman Lindsay Pierce who stepped on the bag to take care of Hernandez.

From there, Abbott was virtually untouchable. And after a two-run fifth, he would preserve the lead over the final two frames.

Hallett went to Holstein to start the fifth. After fanning the first batter he faced, Campbell Jordan’s bunt along the first base line was bobbled as he got aboard. Butler then lined a hit just over the head of first baseman Syrbe which forced Jordan to hold up between first and second before advancing when the ball went for a single. A Pierce walk loaded the bases for Flick who sent a two-run single to left to give Camden the lead for the first time and, for keeps.

Denny Beckley said it was poetic justice that Flick delivered the big hit.

“If we could pick anybody on our team to be up in that spot, I think Christian is the guy we would all choose,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting that we’ve had two other games where he has made the last out of the game so I knew he was hungry for that at-bat and he really took advantage of it.”

Camden mounted another threat against Holstein in a strange sixth frame.

After Devin Beckley reached on an error, stole second and went to third on Abbott’s single to right. With that, Hallett brought Botkin in from left field and placed him between third base and shortstop as the Falcons went with five infielders and two outfielders.

A Brandon Dow ground out advanced the runners into scoring position with one gone before an error on a Connor Newman ground ball loaded the bases. Holstein then got a strikeout for the second out before Botkin returned to left field. Newman was forced at second base to end the inning and the threat.

“They showed a lot of respect for Will (Abbott) by bringing in an extra infielder with no outs in the sixth because, they felt, if they gave up any more runs that they would not have a shot,” Denny Beckley said. “I was really frustrated that we didn’t get another run in the sixth.”

That point became moot as Abbott sandwiched a swinging third strike between a pair of called third strikes to cap the chilly evening. He finished the game with 10 strikeouts while allowing three hits.

“They did a good job of putting the bat on the ball early and he kept plugging away and Will kept his composure,” Denny Beckley said. “Will showed another step of progress with his maturity on the mound and with his attitude tonight. We’re really proud of him.”

Camden got to Chapman for three hits before Holstein allowed three more in his two-inning stint. Flick and Butler had two-hit nights for the Dogs with Flick driving in a pair of runs.

 Denny Beckley said with the way Chapman was dealing, he thought the lefty might have been able to go the distance on the mound. Instead, Hallett went to Holstein in hopes of preserving the one-run lead.

“To be honest, I really was,” Denny Beckley said when asked if he was surprised by Chapman’s departure. “Their guy was throwing a no-hitter at us for six innings at their place and we came back to beat them; I’m sure that’s what Coach Hallett was thinking when he made the move. But we’re a lot different team now than we were then.”



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