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17ers run wild to take series opener

KC swipes 11 bases in 10-5 win over Georgetown

Posted: July 6, 2017 3:53 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

POST 17 SHORTSTOP Bradwin Salmond cuts in front of third baseman Noah Rabon to field this John Weatherford grounder in second inning action from KC’s 10-5 victory over Georgetown on Wednesday night at American Legion Park.

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When you can score two runs with the batter motoring to third base after a dropped third strike pitch, you kind of figure it is or, is not, going to be your night, depending on your point of view.

That was the scenario which played out in Wednesday’s American Legion first round Lower State playoff series opener as Kershaw County turned what should have been the second out of the bottom of the fifth inning into a three-run frame. That gave the hosts a 6-2 lead on which they would not look back on in doubling up Georgetown, 10-5, at American Legion Park.

Last year’s state tournament runner-ups were scheduled to head to Georgetown for game two of the best-of-five series last night with game three slated for tonight at 7 p.m. Should a fourth and/or a fifth game be necessary, they would be played Saturday and Sunday in Georgetown and Camden, respectively. No times had been set for those contests.

Post 17 (13-3) used nine hits, five Georgetown errors while swiping a season-high 11 bases to extend its win streak to nine. Equally important, KC head coach Tyler Pike was able to execute his pre-game pitching plan to near perfection other than a sixth inning blip on the radar.

Devin Beckley got the starting nod on Wednesday and worked the first four innings and threw 72 pitches. With the new American Legion pitch count rule, he will need three days’ rest before pitching again. After 75 pitches, another day of rest is mandated. By pulling his starter, Pike has Beckley available to pitch should a fifth game be needed. In the best-case scenario, the right-hander should be well-rested to work the opening game of the second round, should the locals get past Post 114.

“With a lot of stuff with the pitchers,” Pike said alluding the new rules, “we’re just going to have to play it by ear and see.

“We had the lead and felt good enough to make the change. Devin gave us four good innings and we went ahead and moved on to somebody else. That way, we have Devin available for later on in the series, if we need him.”

While not his sharpest outing, Beckley did not have to be at his best given Georgetown’s problems in the field as well as behind the plate. With Post 114’s starting catcher having left the team in midseason, the visitors struggled as KC did everything but grab the brass ring while playing merry-go-round on the base paths. Bradwin Salmond stole three bases while Noah Rabon and Beckley had two each. Even catcher and clean-up batter Chase Galloway got into the act with a swipe in addition to his two-hit, two-RBI evening.

After seeing how Post 114 catcher John Weatherford struggled in making accurate throws to second and third, Pike and third base coach Stephen Carmon employed a Zeke Elliott-like running attack when someone got on base.

“Maybe, that may be the worst game we saw from (Weatherford.) I don’t know what else they have. They made a change at catcher later on,” Pike said.

“All year,” Pike continued, “we have had a select group of guys who have the green light to go. If they feel comfortable that they can swipe a bag, they can try and swipe one. On a lot of them tonight, it was Coach Carmon who was calling for a steal but a lot of them were stolen bases by guys who have that green light.”

On a warm, humid night, Beckley struggled as the guests scored a run in the top of the first on two hits along with a fielding error which allowed leadoff batter Jacob Daves to score on Carter Thompson’s one-out single to right. That would be the only run Beckley would surrender as he allowed three hits while fanning five and walking four batters in an abbreviated stint in which he struck out the side in the fourth.

The KC offense, meanwhile, had more than its share of problems in the early going against G’town starter Tucker Perry. The submarine-throwing righty went seven complete and was pitching with a 1-0 lead before the hosts took the lead for good with a two-run third.

Josh Boone led the inning off with a line drive single to left. When Tucker’s pickoff throw to first got past Nick Owens, Boone took off for second and never slowed down until landing on third with the two-base error. Salmond followed with an RBI single to center before stealing second. Rabon followed by beating out an infield single and he then stole second to put runners in scoring position for Nick Butler whose sacrifice fly to right brought Salmond in to make it a 2-1 KC lead.

An inning later, Beckley led off with a single to center, stole both second and third before scoring on Boone’s ground ball to shortstop as Post 114 brought the infield in but went for the out at first rather than try to get Beckley at the plate.

Chase Stephens came on in relief of Beckley to start the fifth and was tagged for an unearned run as a pair of KC errors allowed Easton Tanner to get aboard with two outs and then scored to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Georgetown returned the favor in triplicate in what proved to be the pivotal fifth frame.

With one gone, Butler and Galloway smacked consecutive singles with the latter sending Butler to third before Galloway swiped second. A dropped third strike to Cam Holley led to Weatherford’s unleashing a high and wild throw to first base as both Butler and Galloway came around while Holley sped into third base. He would make it 6-2, scoring on Justin Dorton’s ground out to first.

KC scored its first six runs on as many hits. Pike said his team had some uneven at-bats against the sidewinder as Perry’s offerings did not have much velocity but had some late-breaking movement to them.

“It’s a little different,” he said of Perry’s pitching motion. “He was throwing strikes and, his ball moves a lot. I think we had guys who were not very patient at the plate. I don’t think we had the at-bats that we should have had early but later in the game, we started barreling the ball up like we should. We started changing our approach later on in the game and it seemed to work.”

The visitors got back into the thick of things in the sixth, using a walk, a Tripp Pierow double and Weatherford’s being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Stephens would settle down to get a strikeout and a line out to Boone in center only to be pulled in favor of Mikael Nelson, who allowed a two-run double to Daves in what turned into a three-run sixth as Post 114 closed the gap at 6-5 before Nelson left Daves on third by getting Tanner to fly out to Jay Lynch in left.

Pike thought he had a better matchup with Daves at the plate by going with Nelson. In hindsight, he said after the game, it may have been better to let Stephens close out the inning and then bring in Nelson with a clean slate in the seventh.

“Mikael’s always been a strike-thrower and a change of pace kind of a guy,” he said. “I thought we had something on (Daves) that I thought would work but it backfired on me. I made a mistake on it but that’s baseball. You just have to roll on and play.

“Looking back on it now, though, I probably should have left Chase in there to finish with that batter.”

With the lead at one, KC scratched across a run in both the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, Jay Lynch singled to right, took second on a passed ball and stole third before coming home on Salmond’s ground out to first. An inning later, Galloway got aboard on an error and after advancing to third on a wild pitch scored on Dorton’s sac fly to center to make it an 8-5 game.

After giving up a double to Daves, Nelson settled in. The right-hander would get credited with the hold in setting down the final five batters he faced while getting back-to-back strikeouts to start the eighth before giving way to Bradley, who would work a 1-2-3 ninth.

Bradley took the mound with a five-run cushion after the 17ers got to Clay Prudhomme for a pair in the home half of the eighth which opened with a Salmond walk and a balk which put the leadoff man on second. Rabon was then hit by a pitch that led to a double-steal. With one gone, Galloway sent a two-run single to left to hike the lead to 10-5.

Galloway was the only KC player to a two-hit night as seven others had one hit each. Galloway, Salmond and Dorton each collected a pair of RBI.

The hosts left nine runners hanging on base, something which Pike said needs to improve going forward.

“Sometimes, up at bat,” he said of getting timely hit, “we have to realize the situation we’re in and try to get that run in. Tonight, we had some situations where we had a man on third with less than two outs and didn't get him home. We have to do a better job of getting that guy in. That’s something we’ve worked on this whole year and is something we have gotten better at doing. We just have to keep getting better and better at it and see where it leads.”

Keeping POSTed: The 17ers were expected to send out Jay Lynch (4-1) in Thursday’s game in Georgetown with Justin Dorton (4-0) the probable starter for tonight’s third game … Over the weekend, the state American Legion Baseball Committee released the playoff brackets. In a change from last year, should Sumter not earn a state tournament bid on the field, it would go in as the fourth entry from the Upper State. That means that there will not be a play-in game for the Lower State as all four second round winners will be the only teams which advance to the eight-team state tourney at Riley Park in Sumter … After only 11 teams were left in the Upper State which continued playing, Greenville was awarded a bye into the second round. Earlier in the week, Beaufort learned that it would have a free pass into the second round as, for the second year in a row, Lower Lexington pulled out of the playoffs due to a lack of players and forfeited its series with the Osprey who await the winner of the Horry County vs. Manning-Santee series … Also, regardless of when the first round series ends, the committee has pushed the start of the second round best-of-five series to Wednesday, July 12 … In other Lower State action from Wednesday, 2015 American Legion World Series champion Chapin-Newberry defeated Goose Creek, 10-3. The winner of that series will meet the Post 17-Georgetown winner. Sumter closed out Murrells Inlet early, 11-1, while Aiken did the same against Orangeburg in a 17-3 romp. Defending state champion Florence had little trouble in a 9-2 win over Hartsville while Horry County outlasted Manning-Santee in a 20-15 slugfest.

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