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Five-run fifth helps carry L-E past top-ranked Chapin

Demons run win streak to three

Posted: March 15, 2018 2:27 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.

On the day the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association released their first regular season rankings of the season, Chapin sat atop the 4A poll.

Well, that was a short, sweet visit.

Using a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth, Lugoff-Elgin --- ranked eighth in that same poll --- handed the Eagles  an 8-3 loss in a non-region contest played Wednesday night at Optimist Field.

The victory was the third in a row for the Randy Stokes and company which have outscored the opposition by a combined 35-8 count in that trio of games.

If there is a secret to his team’s recent surge, Stokes said  he is not aware of it.

“I don’t know that I know the answer to that question,” he said. “I know that we are putting together good at-bats and our pitching performances have been outstanding.

“We just told our kids that we had to settle down and our kids have responded well to that.”

The visitors scored a pair of runs in the second inning and added a third in the third off L-E’s Walker Branham. That would be the extent of the Eagles’ offensive damage as the junior did not yield another run while allowing only one more hit over the course of the final four frames in getting the complete game victory.

Branham, a lefty, threw a tidy 79 pitches while fanning six and issuing a walk along the way.

Stokes, who noted that there is an ongoing battle for the number two spot in his team’s pitching rotation, said Branham is in that mix. One of the biggest changes which Branham made, coming into this season, was shedding some 40 pounds which has made him a more effective pitcher.

“Walker was always able to throw three pitches,” Stokes said. “He has really been working on his cutter and is getting more confident in throwing that pitch along with his fastball and a change-up.

“He only gave up one earned run (against Chapin) because we didn’t play good defense behind him when they scored two unearned runs in the second when we made two errors.”

Trailing, 3-0, after four and a half innings, the hosts staged a two-out rally in the fifth against CHS reliever Dante Chirico, who came on in the fifth for starter Drew Highfill, who worked four scoreless frames. Chirico fanned the first two batters he faced before hitting Zac Branham to ignite the rally.

Noah Rabon then delivered a single to left and took second on the throw to try and get Branham going into third as the Demons had runners in scoring position for Bradwin Salmond, whose walk loaded the bags for Jake Laffin , who also drew a walk which plated Zac Branham with the first L-E run of the game.

Justin Dorton made Chirico pay for his mistakes as he took the CHS starter the other way, blasting a three-run triple to left center to give the hosts the 4-3 lead.

Dorton would made it a 5-3 game when he scored when Walker Branham delivered an RBI single to center.

With Walker Branham continuing to dominate on the mound, the Demon offense tacked on a trio of insurance runs in the sixth.

Mason Cassidy led off the sixth by reaching on an error before stealing second. An error on J.C. Legrand’s sacrifice bunt led to runners sitting on the corners for the Demons. With one gone, Rabon drove a two-run single to right. Rabon would later make it an 8-3 lead when he came home on Dorton’s sacrifice fly to center which was Dorton’s fourth RBI of the night.

The Demons put together eight hits with Rabon and Dorton collecting three and two, respectively.

After slow starts to the season at the plate, both Rabon and Dorton have heated up as the weather has cooled down for the Demons who travel to meet Darlington tonight in the back end of their two-game, home-and-home Region 6-4A series.

“Things are starting to come together for us,” Stokes said of his team’s offense which has broken from its doldrums. “We are going up to the plate having good approaches and, hits are starting to fall for us.”

One thing Stokes pointed out to his players after beating the state’s number one team was that the season is still early and that one win will not define this year just like last week’s loss to Camden did not. Still, a victory over the number one team in the state is a feather in L-E’s cap.

“I think it makes our kids feel better about themselves,” Stokes said. 

“For us, we just have to get better each day because it’s a long season. It’s like I told them after the game, our season can’t be defined by one game. Just like it was after the Camden loss, we can’t let the Chapin win define our season. We have to go back and get ready for Darlington (tonight.) But do we feel good about having beaten Chapin? Absolutely.”

Demons dump Darlington: Having scored 18 runs in a non-region win over Midland Valley last Friday, Lugoff-Elgin did not even need half as many to set down visiting Darlington on Tuesday night at Optimist Field.

The Demons hung up a six-spot in the bottom of the first and cruised to a 9-2 victory over the Falcons in the Region 6-4A opener for both teams. The two sides will close out their season series tonight in a 6:30 p.m. start in Darlington.

L-E (2-2, 1-0 in 6-4A) made the most of its eight hits while Darlington only had a pair of runners cross the plate on an evening in which they collected eight hits.

Senior right-hander Zac Branham picked up his second win in as many starts with the complete game victory in which he allowed one run while fanning 14 Falcons and issuing a trio of walks.

Branham also helped himself at the plate with two hits while driving in a pair of runs. He opened up the bottom of the first with a leadoff single to center and promptly swiped second base before scoring on Bradwin Salmond’s one-out single to left center before he, too, swiped second.

Jake Laffin then delivered an RBI single to center followed by a two-run single off the bats of Justin Dorton and an RBI single to center from Garrett Cassidy. When J.C. Legrand was hit by a pitch and Mason Cassidy worked his way for a walk, it brought Dorton home while Branham two-run liner to left plated the Cassidy brothers with runs five and six.

The guests scored a run in the third and another in the fifth to close the gap to 6-2 only to see the Demons put this one out of reach with a three-run bottom of the sixth.

Legrand started the sixth with a walk before Branham’s sacrifice bunt moved him to second. A walk to Noah Rabon was followed by Salmond’s single which was played into an error as both Legrand and Rabon scored on the play. Salmond made it 9-2 when he came in from second on base hit by Dorton.

Salmond led the Demons’ offensive attack with three hits while Dorton and Branham had two each while having a pair of RBI apiece.

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