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17ers bounce back with 4-3 victory over Hartsville

Posted: June 15, 2017 3:53 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Hanging on for dear life, Kershaw County received a game-ending strikeout from Mikael Nelson --- leaving runners on first and second --- to leave Jimmy White Park with a 4-3 win over Hartsville in an American Legion game played Tuesday in Kelleytown.

Nelson picked up the one-inning save in relief of Post 17 starter Jay Lynch, who worked the first eight innings of the League III contest.

In earning a split after the first two of the three-game series, KC improved to 2-3 in league play while the hosts from Post 53 fell to 2-5. The two sides were scheduled to play the finale of their three-game series Thursday at American Legion Park in Camden.

The visitors carried a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth as head coach Tyler Pike brought Nelson to the mound for the second time in as many nights and for his fourth appearance out of the bullpen this season. Nelson came into the game only after Lynch pleaded with Pike in an attempt to finish the contest.

“I told Jay after the eighth that I was pulling him,” Pike said. “Jay told me, ‘No. No. I’m good.’ He had thrown about 110 pitches and was nearing the (125) pitch limit. I told him that he was out.

“I had Chase Stephens and Nellie (Nelson) ready to go. They had been warming up since the seventh inning.”

Nelson retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth before allowing a single. A passed ball advanced the runner to second. A base hit drove in the third Post 53 run before a squirmer between P-17 third baseman Noah Rabon and shortstop Bradwin Salmond put runners on first and second for Harrison Hawkins, who struck out to end the threat and the game.

The 17ers opened the scoring with a run in the second as Nick Butler, who collected two of the visitors’ five hits on the night, singled and later scored on a Chase Galloway sacrifice fly.

Hartsville would get to Lynch for the only time by pushing across two runs in the bottom half of the second. That would be it as the right-hander finished the night allowing six hits while fanning 11 batters. During one stretch, he recorded five consecutive strikeouts. He only issued a pair of walks.

“Jay was lights out. He was incredible,” Pike said of Lynch’s performance. “His fastball was jumping out of his hands, his changeup was really moving and he was throwing his curveball for strikes. He was on and hitting his spots with all his pitches.

“He had their guys off-balance all night. He was really dealing.”

The guests evened things at 2-2 with a run in the top of the third. Josh Boone lined a single along the left field line and took second on the play when the Hartsville leftfielder could not come up with the ball cleanly. With two gone, Salmond hit a chopper to second base which went off the fielder’s chest for an error, allowing Boone to come home from third.

With Lynch in a groove, KC broke the deadlock with a pair in the sixth which opened with a Rabon single. Butler then sent a booming drive to left which bounced off the wall for a double to put runners in scoring position. With one gone and Justin Dorton at the plate, KC third base coach Stephen Carmon signaled for a squeeze bunt. At first, Rabon was not charging down the line before he started on his way home. Seeing that the runner did not get a clean break from the bag, Dorton swung at the pitch and hit an RBI ground out. With two gone, Brady White’s grounder to third was thrown away as Butler came across with the eventual game-winning run.

Lynch’s plea to stay on the mound came after he breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth but would fall on Pike’s closed ears.

Lynch became the fifth P-17 starter, in as many games, to work into the sixth or, beyond. He and Nelson were backed by a defense which committed just one error. Hartsville, meanwhile, committed four miscues in the field on Tuesday.

“Our pitching has been outstanding and our defense has been pretty solid,” Pike said of those parts of the game. “Once we get our bats going, we’re going to be OK.”

Butler’s double was the only extra base hit for the visitors in their past three games. Including three preseason contests, KC has just five doubles after having collected 30 a season ago.

The base hits have led to the 17ers playing station-to-station baseball along with having to utilize the bunt and stolen bases to advance runners. Pike said he still has plenty of faith in his offense and that things will come around at the plate.

“So far, we have not been getting the big hits in the timely situations that you need,” he said. “Our guys have had good approaches at the plate; we only had two guys strike out on Tuesday so we’re putting the ball in play. We just need to start stringing some of our hits together.

“I’m going to let our guys figure it out. We have good players and good hitters on this team. We are going to break out of it.”

 

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