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Seventh (inning) hardly heaven for P-17 in loss to Hartsville

Five-run seventh frame does in KC in 7-5 setback

Posted: June 15, 2017 3:51 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

DEVIN BECKLEY SENDS a pitch to the plate in Kershaw County’s 7-5 loss to Hartsville on Monday night. The Citadel signee scattered six hits while allowing a pair of earned runs in his 114-pitch stint.

One-third of the way into a 12-game League III season is not the optimal time to push the panic button but after four games, Kershaw County American Legion head coach Tyler Pike is noticing a disturbing trend.

In all four outings, Post 17 has seen two innings in each game which have led to its downfall. Monday was no different as visiting Hartsville scored five times in the seventh to overcome a 5-2 deficit and take home a 7-5 victory from American Legion Park.

The loss was the third in four tries for last year’s state runners-up who, for some reason, seem to have a mental block when it comes to the seventh frame.

“We can’t quite learn to get past the seventh inning,” said the second-year P-17 head coach. “We had a couple errors, a pop up to right field that should have been caught, a pop fly that our centerfielder lost in the lights … that killed us.

“It’s the little things that are getting us.”

In what would be his final inning of work, KC starter Devin Beckley looked to be getting out of the seventh unscathed only to have Charles Harrington’s two-out grounder thrown away as he got aboard on the error. Jacob Grant, hitting in the nine hole, then drew his second consecutive walk against The Citadel signee to put runners on first and second with the top of the Post 53 order coming to bat.

Quez Lucas loaded the bags with a low-lining single to left, which went just under the glove of KC shortstop Bradwin Salmond. Caleb Peach followed by lofting a fly ball to shallow right which went for a two-run single as the visitors had narrowed the gap to 5-4. Harrison Hawkins then hit a fly ball to center which got lost in the lights for an RBI double as Lucas came in from third with the tying run.

Alex Miller closed the door on Beckley’s night when he lined a two-run single through the box to make it 7-5. That forced Pike’s hand as Beckley was replaced after 114 pitches by Mikael Nelson, who worked the final 2.1 innings and allowed no runs with a pair of singles and a strikeout.

“Devin’s pitch count was a little high, which I was concerned about, but he told me that he felt fine,” said Pike of his first of two visits to the mound in the seventh. “That inning (the seventh), he would have made it out throwing less than 100 pitches if we didn’t make the error and have the lost ball in centerfield. He gets out of there if that doesn’t happen. Then, we’re on to Mikael for the eighth and ninth with a 5-2 lead.”

After only being able to muster one hit off Post 53 starter Peach through three frames, the hosts found their rhythm in their second go-through against the right-hander.

The bottom of the fourth opened with Salmond reaching on an error on a ground ball hit to first base. Noah Rabon then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second. Nick Butler then dropped in an opposite field RBI single to right for the game’s first run. After stealing second, Butler was joined on base by Justin Dorton, who drew a walk with the pair advancing into scoring position on a passed ball. Chase Galloway, playing his first game of the season, then went the other way by lining a single to right to plate Butler with the second run. 

Beckley made it 3-0 with his ground ball out to second which brought in Dorton. A Jay Lynch walk followed and with runners on the corners, Lynch safely swiped second and when the throw went to the bag, Galloway broke for home and scored to make it 4-0. It seemed as if the 17ers were off and running at the time.

Peach would last into the sixth before giving way to Rashad Coleman, a rising sophomore at Hartsville High School. Peach had a bit of an odd delivery which threw the KC batters off stride.

“He did a good job mixing stuff up,” Pike said of Peach who allowed five runs on five hits while fanning four in a game in which he did not factor into the decision. “He had a weird release point which kind of threw some of our guys off. He also had a little slider which would dive in and his changeup ran in on you. He had good stuff that kind of ran and moved from you. He was handcuffing us, a little, but we just weren’t hitting the ball tonight.”

Beckley’s first bump in the road came in the sixth as Hartsville pushed across the first two of its five unearned runs in an inning which opened with Grant drawing a walk and moving to second on a Lucas single to center. Grant would score on a wild pitch with the bases loaded while a Hawkins one-out fielders’ choice drove Lucas home with the second run as the guests cut the KC lead in half at 4-2.

The 17ers padded their lead to three runs in the bottom of the sixth with Galloway driving a leadoff single to right and taking second on a passed ball. Following Beckley’s sacrifice bunt, Galloway made it a 5-2 game when he scored on Lynch’s one-out sacrifice fly to center.

The three-run advantage looked fairly safe, even as late as two outs in the top of the seventh before the roof caved in on the Post 17.

Coleman came on in relief of Peach in the seventh and went the final three frames, allowing just a two-out single to Cam Holley in a bottom of the ninth in which KC left runners hanging on first and second.

Nelson, meanwhile, was shutting down the guests by filling the zone with strikes in his third appearance out of the bullpen this season.

“Mikael came in and did his job; that’s what he’s here for and he knows that. He has one job when he goes out there and that is to throw strikes and he’s doing that,” Pike said of his right-handed reliever. “The damage had already been done at that point, though, when he came in and stopped the bleeding.”

By working into the seventh, Beckley (0-2) gave the 17ers their fourth quality start in as many games with each starter working into the seventh. “Our pitching has been great but the errors and the little stuff are killing us,” Pike said.

KC managed six hits off Hartsville pitching with Butler and Galloway having two singles each while they had an RBI apiece.  That led Pike to saying this of his offense, “We’re not getting hits all the way through the lineup like we need to.”

In nine-inning American Legion games, it is usually the final two innings which can be the tipping point for some teams which include high school players who are used to playing seven frames. As Pike said, his team’s problems have cropped up in the seventh, a situation he, his staff and players hope to remedy.

“We’re pretty good, one through six, right now,” he said of the first two-thirds of the game. “It’s OK; we’ll progress and move on to the next game. We started doing it against Sumter (last Thursday.) It will be like, everything is fine then freak stuff, things you don’t see happen very often, happen and they score three runs.

“We have to limit those things and when we do, we’ll win games.”

 

Keeping POSTed: Kershaw County was without the services of Chase Stephens on Monday. Stephens was involved in an automobile accident on his way to the game. Fortunately for the North Central grad and USC-Sumter signee, his vehicle took the brunt of the damage and, reportedly, he was only shaken up in the wreck … Also not available for the hosts was starting outfielder Christian Flick, who is still nursing a hamstring injury suffered in the season-opening loss to Sumter last Monday night. “The doctor told Flick to rest for two weeks,” Pike said of the status of the injury. “I told Christian to make sure he was 100 percent before he came back because if you try and rush an injury like that, you could re-injure yourself and be out for a month or more.”… After Thursday night’s scheduled home game with Hartsville, Post 17 will play just two more regular season games at American Legion Park. The first of those is next Tuesday with Manning-Santee with the regular season home finale taking place on Tuesday, June 27 with Dalzell-Shaw … The top four finishers from League III advance to the first round of the best-of-five state playoffs which begin Wednesday, July 5. The second round matchups will begin one week later.

 

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