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17ers snare final spot in state tourney

KC faces Rock Hill in 9 a.m. opener on Saturday

Posted: July 21, 2016 1:26 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

WILL ABBOTT THREW FOUR innings of scoreless relief to earn the save in Post 17’s 3-1 win over Horry County on Wednesday in Florence.

Throughout the season, first-year Kershaw County American Legion baseball coach Tyler Pike has said that when his team is on, they can play with anybody in the state.

Now, Post 17 will get the chance to prove it.

After having swept both ends of a two-night play-in series with Murrells Inlet and then, Horry County, the locals will return to the South Carolina American Legion State Tournament. The eight-team, double-elimination event kicks off Saturday at Riley Park in Sumter. 

KC will face Rock Hill in the opening game of the tourney which is set for 9 a.m. on Saturday.

This marks the second time in three years in which Post 17 has appeared in the state tournament. The 2014 squad, which snapped a state tournament drought of some 40 years by James Leroy Belk Post 17, finished tied for third in the state under then-head coach Craig Smith.

Kershaw County had to fight for the eighth and final tourney berth. 

After having lost to defending American Legion World Series champion Chapin-Newberry in the second round of the state playoffs, KC had to wait and see if Sumter would win its series with Murrells Inlet and have played its way into the state tourney rather than go in as the tourney host. When the P-15s won their series it put KC into a three-team play-in tourney with fellow second round losers Murrells Inlet and Horry County.

On Tuesday, the 17ers played Murrells Inlet in Conway and led, 4-0, in the top of the fourth before a rainstorm hit the area forcing the game to be suspended and resumed on Wednesday. Due to the overwhelming rains, the field at Conway High School was rendered unplayable as the game was shifted to American Legion Field in Florence on Wednesday.

KC won the completion of the suspended game, 5-2, and following a short break, took on Horry County for the right to play in the state tournament, Post 17 won that contest, 3-1, and will have two full days off before opening state tournament action Saturday afternoon.

Pike said that while his team (13-8) may be a bit drained after the two nights of baseball and the travel involved, he believes they will be ready come Saturday afternoon.

“We’re excited, we’re very excited to get this opportunity to play in the state tournament and to play Rock Hill on Saturday,” Pike said. “We’re going to go out there and just give it everything we’ve got.”

The 17ers sent Devin Beckley to the mound on Tuesday against Murrells Inlet and The Citadel commitment worked three innings of hitless baseball while needing to throw just 24 pitches to accomplish it.

Beckley was staked to a 4-0 lead when the guests scored four runs in the top of the third.

John Bailey got things going when he reached on a dropped fly ball. Brock Robinson then had a base hit to right field on which Bailey was gunned down trying to score from second on the play. With Robinson on second, Ross Hough delivered an RBI single to center. A Josh Hernandez double down the left field line put runners on second and third with two outs for Bradwin Salmond who sent a three-run shot well beyond the fence in left center.

Pike said there was frustration on his part when the rains forced the game to be suspended.

“It was frustrating, especially when you drive two hours to get to the game like we did on Tuesday,” he said. “Of course, we wanted to get the game in and so did (Murrells Inlet) but the weather is something that is out of our control. But our guys were OK when they came back. They rallied on Wednesday.”

When the teams arrived to pick the game up in Florence on Wednesday, Pike said he and his staff had a plan in place for two games. The first part of the equation was sending Salmond to the mound to start the fourth.

Murrells Inlet got to Salmond for a pair in the fifth after having loaded the bases with one out. The KC righty did not surrender a run from that point.

KC tacked on a fifth run in the eighth as Hernandez collected his second hit of the night and one of 10 by the guests with a double to the gap in right center. He scored when Salmond legged out an infield single for his second hit and fourth RBI of the game.

Salmond allowed four hits in his six-inning stint while earning praise from his head coach.

“Bradwin picked up where Devin left off on Tuesday,” Pike said.

“It worked out perfectly for us because Devin was cruising on Tuesday and then Bradwin came in and finished things up. We thought that Bradwin was the perfect guy to bring in against Murrells Inlet. He does an unbelievable job of throwing strikes. In 20-something innings pitched for us this year, he has only walked three batters.”

With Salmond able to close the book against Murrells Inlet, it paved the way for Beckley to return to the mound to start the second game with Horry County which got to Beckley for a solo run in the bottom of the first. That 1-0 lead held up until the fourth when KC scored two runs.

Hernandez singled to left before Salmond’s grounder to second was booted for an error. A Beckley fielders’ choice advanced both runners into scoring position for Nick Butler whose line drive single to left  plated Hernandez with the tying run. Nick Stokes then delivered a run-scoring single to center to make it 2-1.

Beckley went the first five frames, allowing one hit and striking out seven before giving way to Will Abbott. The Citadel-bound right-hander closed the game by throwing four innings of two-hit ball while fanning nine batters.

KC made it 3-1 with a run in the eighth as Hernandez got on via a third strike wild pitch before stealing second. Salmond followed with a single to right to bring Hernandez in with the third run.

The host made it interesting at the end by loading the bases with two outs only for Abbott to get a ground out to second base to close the game and the evening.

“If everything went according to plan in the first game, like it did,” Pike said, “we had Devin and Will ready to go for the second game. After a tough first inning in relief, Will was locked in.”

Having used three pitchers in the two games, Pike said he and assistant coaches Stephen Carmon and Jack LaFrage would use the two days between games to discuss what route to take in terms of who would start and be in the bullpen for Saturday’s state tournament opener with an experienced Rock Hill squad.

“We’ll let our guys regroup and see how they feel,” Pike said of the pitching situation. “We’ll meet as a staff on Thursday or Friday and decided what we’re going to roll with. Right now, we are kind of in limbo.

“What we do know is that we are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game for the state tournament.”

 

 

 

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