View Mobile Site

Survive and advance

MC throws scare into L-E in state tourney opener

Posted: April 26, 2017 1:54 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E PITCHER ZAC BRANHAM prepares to gun down Marlboro County’s Clint English at first base after the Demons’ junior fielded this sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s 3-1 L-E win in the 4A District 8 opener at Optimist Field.

At this stage of the season, style points don’t count. 

While Lugoff-Elgin’s 3-1 win over visiting Marlboro County in Tuesday’s 4A District 8 opener was anything but ugly, Demons’ head coach Randy Stokes said his team is capable of using this game as a building block for better outings in the postseason.

The victory was the 13th straight for L-E which was scheduled to have traveled to Colleton County, a 7-2 winner over Lower Richland, in Thursday’s second round winners’ bracket pairing of the double-elimination event.

“We survived,” Stokes said after Zac Branham worked the first 6.1 innings before junior classmate Bradwin Salmond came on to get the two-out save. “When you’re in the playoffs, surviving works; we’ll take it and move on to play again Thursday night.”

Survival summed up MC starter Devin Hardee’s six-inning outing. The burley junior right-hander wiggled in and out of trouble for four innings before the hosts were the first to reach the scoreboard by pushing across a run in the bottom of the fifth in what Stokes said was a very L-E-like way.

J.C. Legrand opened the fifth by lining a single to right. Leadoff batter Hunter Coleman then did his job by sending a single to left to put runners on first and second for Noah Rabon, whose sacrifice bunt advanced the two runners into scoring position with one out. 

Bradwin Salmond brought the game’s first run home when he lofted a deep sacrifice fly to center which not only scored Legrand but allowed Coleman to move to third on the throw home. Hardee limited the damage to one run when he got Chase Roberts to send a fly ball to deep center to end the threat and, Hardee’s night.

“I kept telling our guys to just get one (run) … just try to scratch one and let’s manufacture a run,” Stokes said. “Our kids have done that all year. We’re not a team that is going to come out and get 10 runs. We don’t play that way. We pitch and defend pretty well, which has been the key for us right now.”

Hardee was lifted due to a mounting pitch count after six innings. In that time, he scattered six hits, fanned three while issuing a walk.

While not overpowering, Stokes said Hardee changed speeds and threw enough strikes to be effective. 

“Their pitcher was a strike-thrower who didn’t walk people and we didn’t make adjustments early,” he said of his team’s struggles in getting to Hardee who worked out of a first inning jam in which Rabon, who walked and went to third on an errant pickoff throw, was left hanging as Hardee retired the next two batters. In the third, the hosts loaded the bases with two outs only to have Hardee come out clean by getting a strikeout.

While Hardee was working in and out of trouble, Branham was cruising along. The righty carried a perfect game into the fourth before Jeff Herndon opened the inning by reaching on an error. After being bunted over to second, Herndon landed on third when the speedy Brix Cribb laced a one-out single to right for the Bulldogs’ first hit of the night.

Expecting Cribb to try and swipe second while also preparing the Demon defense for a bunt from cleanup hitter Logan Quick, L-E pitching coach Jeremy Ray met with his infield on the mound. Quick, however, would swing at the first pitch and sent a grounder to Legrand at shortstop who turned it into a double play by stepping on second base and firing a strike to Justin Dorton at first to get Branham out of the inning.

“Zac’s a strike-thrower, too,” Stokes later said of Branham’s outing. “He has developed a different pitch; he throws a cutter, now, which kept them off-balance a little bit. He’s a competitor who went out there and did exactly what we needed him to do tonight.”

With Hardee’s night complete, the Bulldogs went to the bullpen and to sophomore righty Corey Gibson, who hit Branham with his first pitch. Chase Galloway then laid down a bunt which was fielded by Gibson whose throw to second sailed into center field. Gibson made things worse by hitting Dorton in the foot to load the bases with no outs for Josh Ayer.

Ayer hit a grounder to shortstop, which was booted for an error as courtesy runner Josh Boone came across to make it 2-0. Legrand then drew a bases loaded walk to plate the third run. That, however, would be the extent of the damage for the Demons as Gibson settled down with consecutive strikeouts and a force out to limit the damage.

The Bulldogs threatened in the seventh against Branham.

With one gone, Cribb singled to center before Quick hit a sinking liner to right for a double to put men on second and third. A third straight hit, a Tony Graham RBI single through the box drove, in the first MC run while bringing an end to Branham’s 98-pitch night.

Salmond inherited a first and third with one gone situation. He fanned Peyton Herndon, the first and only batter he would face with a third strike pitch in the dirt. Graham bolted for second on the play only to be easily gunned down by Galloway’s strike to the bag which was being covered by Legrand, who applied the tag on Graham to end the contest.

Coleman had two of the six Demon hits while Cribb had half of MC’s four hits on the night.

Stokes said he did not have an answer to what may have gone wrong on this night. Maybe, he said, it could have been a case of opening round state tournament jitters. Then again, he added, Marlboro County was a quality and battle-tested squad.

“I don’t know the answer to why we didn’t play better tonight. Maybe, it’s a credit to those guys (Marlboro County),” he said. 

“We had a chance to score with the bases loaded and no outs (in the bottom of the sixth) and I was hoping it wouldn’t come back to haunt us. That’s baseball, though, but we lived to play another day and we’ll go and try again Thursday.”

 

District 8 slate: Should L-E have won Thursday’s game at Colleton County, the Demons will host next Monday’s District 8 championship and would have to be beaten twice. Due to the possibility of two games needed to be played, the starting time is 5 p.m. at Optimist Field.

Should Colleton County have defeated the Demons Thursday, L-E will host Saturday’s elimination game. The starting time for a possible Saturday game has been set for 5 p.m.

Comments

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Contents of this site are © Copyright 2018 Chronicle Independent All rights reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of service

Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...