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Dreher goes small, goes home with win over L-E

Posted: March 6, 2017 1:08 p.m.
Updated: March 7, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CHASE ROBERTS HAD ONE of Lugoff-Elgin’s five hits in Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to visiting Dreher in the Carolina Ale House Classic.

Box scores list the names of players who hit doubles, triples and home runs; the glamour hits in baseball.

What you will not see are bunt singles and bunts which move runners into scoring position or, even bunts which drive runs across the plate.

Doing the little things right, Dreher played small ball to perfection while sending Lugoff-Elgin to its second straight defeat with a 5-2 win over the host Demons in Thursday’s third round of the Carolina Ale House Classic.

The loss dropped the state’s top-ranked 4A team to 1-2 in a game played three nights after L-E fell to Aiken, 6-4, on Monday night. 

If you think Randy Stokes was ready to make wholesale changes to his lineup after Thursday, think again. The veteran Demons’ head coach has always been a patient man and knows the calendar just turned to March in what he and his players hope will be a long season.

“We’re not very good, right now,” he said while seated in a near-empty dugout. “We’re scuffling a little bit but it’s early and it’s a good thing it’s early rather than it being late in the year. There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played.”

Dreher did what Thane Maness-coached teams have always done, from the time he was the coach at Richland Northeast. When you defend his team’s offense, you need to be able to field the bunt and make plays. On this chilly night, the Blue Devils did all their offensive damage on just four hits while taking advantage of three L-E errors. The visitors bunted the ball five times and attempted six bunts overall.

Having faced Maness-led teams at RNE in the past, Stokes told his players to anticipate the bunt which would come no matter where the Demon defense was situated.

“They did a good job of putting pressure on us and we just couldn’t make plays,” Stokes said matter-of-factly.

Imploring his team to set the tone and get off to a good start before they took the field, Stokes watched as the Demons touched up DHS starter Matt Mintz for an unearned run in the first for the quick 1-0 lead.

With one gone, Bradwin Salmond drew a walk and went to second on Chase Galloway’s opposite field single to right. Both Salmond and courtesy runner Josh Boone advanced into scoring position on Jake Laffin’s ground out. When catcher Eddie Matlocks sent his throw back to the mound over Mintz’s head and into center field, it allowed Salmond to trot home with the game’s first run.

Dreher answered with a run in the second with Mintz sending a leadoff single to left. A Matlocks sacrifice bunt attempt was fielded by L-E pitcher John Bradley, whose throw got the runner at second for the first out. A throwing error on a Jacob Collins ground ball brought Matlocks around from second with the tying run.

An inning later, the Blue Devils put on a clinic as to how to manufacture runs in pushing two more across the plate in the third.

Deandre Palmer took the first pitch of the inning in the leg to get aboard for leadoff man Da Da Washington, who legged out a bunt along the first base line for a single. With one gone and runners on second and third after an Ethan Matlocks sacrifice bunt, Palmer came in home on a wild pitch while Washington landed on third. Nic Webster laid down a successful suicide squeeze to plate Washington with what turned out to be the winning run in a frame in which DHS laid down three consecutive bunts.

Mintz, a lefty whose fastball appeared quicker due to the slow breaking balls he was throwing, was able to hold the L-E offense at bay. In his 4.1 innings of work, he allowed two runs on four hits while fanning four before handing the ball to Ethan Matlock, who picked up the save.

What the two Blue Devil left-handers were able to do was to keep the Demons from getting anything going. The hosts only placed their leadoff man on base twice in the seven-inning contest. That, Stokes said, took away several offensive options while making the running game virtually non-existent.

“We talk about quality at-bats and we didn’t have a whole lot of those tonight,” Stokes said. 

“We didn’t do a good job of making adjustments to their pitchers. We had a couple guys make adjustments late in the game but as far as the whole group, we didn’t make good adjustments.”

The Demons chased Mintz from the box in the fifth as Salmond sent a one-out, opposite field double to left. Galloway then changed places with Salmond as he delivered a double, his second hit of the night, to the gap in right center which closed Mintz’s stint. Ethan Matlocks made sure the one run was all L-E would get as he retired the next two batters in order.

Leading, 3-2, heading into the seventh, the Blue Devils used three consecutive walks to open the inning before two runs scored on a two-out error to hike their advantage to 5-2.

“We have to defend better,” Stokes said. “We had a chance to get out of that inning but we kicked the ball and threw the ball and they scored two runs. It’s a lot different game if it’s a one-run game rather than a three-run game going into our last at-bat.”

L-E posed a bit of a threat in the seventh as Chase Roberts singled with one gone before taking second on a wild pitch only to see Matlocks get a ground ball out before registering a game-closing strikeout.

The Demons out-hit Dreher, 5-4, with Galloway getting a single and a double in four trips to the plate while driving in a run.

Stokes said his team is still a work in progress and said there is a reason tournaments such as this come before the start of the regular season. In the same breath, though, he admitted he and his coaches and their players thought the Demons would have been ahead of the game at this young juncture of the season. 

 “We have to play good to win … (our coaches) are frustrated, our kids are frustrated because they thought that we’d be in a better place by now,” Stokes said. “We’re still growing and learning what’s going on; we still haven’t’ defined our lineup, yet.

“We use these preseason tournaments to try and figure out who you are, where you are and who’s where. We’re still in that process.”

 

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