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Dogs’ offensive woes mount after no-hitter

Posted: April 9, 2018 2:24 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN’S MATTHEW CASSIDY SPRINTS toward first base on this first inning bunt which was ruled an error in the Bulldogs’ 2-0 loss to Gray Collegiate Academy on Thursday afternoon at American Legion Park.

It was a loaded question which Camden head coach Denny Beckley thought about before giving his response.

The day after his team was held to one hit by Zac Branham in a 5-1 loss to Lugoff-Elgin in the Kershaw-Richland wooden bat tournament, the Bulldogs were no-hit by Gray lefty Jonathan Buster in a 2-0 loss in Thursday’s fifth place game.

So, Beckley was asked, were his team’s problems at the plate of their own doing or, more of running into quality pitching on consecutive days?

“I think it was a little more toward the good pitching,” he said. “Obviously, though, we still have to make some adjustments at the plate. 

“Hat’s off to (Buster), I thought he threw really well. They did a good job of mixing their pitches and pitching us backwards. A lot of time, they started us off with a looping curveball and then, when the count was 0-1, coming back with a fastball, especially inside.”

The loss capped a 1-3 week for the Dogs (5-13) in the four-day event held at American Legion Park.

Camden’s best chance for a hit came when trailing, 2-0, in the bottom of the first, eadoff batter Matthew Cassidy dropped down a bunt on the third base side of the diamond. Buster bounced off the mound but could not field the roller cleanly as Cassidy got on board via error. After taking second on a wild throw on a pickoff attempt, Cassidy wound up on third with two outs only to be left stranded there.

Buster issued a walk to McKenzie Barrineau with one gone in the second before proceeding to retire the final 13 batters he faced in a complete game performance in which he walked one and fanned nine batters.

For the second time in less than 24 hours, Camden wasted a strong pitching performance from its starter. This time it was sophomore Sam Ferguson who was the hard-luck loser. The sophomore lefty was touched up for two first inning runs on as many hits. After that, he allowed just three more hits in a complete game five-hitter in which he fanned nine while issuing a walk. 

“We ran into a little bit of a buzz saw out there but, I’m extremely proud of how Sam Ferguson pitched today,” Beckley said. “He had several situations where he could have succumbed to the pressure but, he didn’t. He’s maturing and he’s understanding how to pitch. He did a great job mixing in his changeup today. 

“Once again, (CHS pitching) coach (Joe) Bowers does such a good job. When our pitchers work ahead, coach Bowers does such a good job of getting out pitchers to attack the other team’s weaknesses.”

The War Eagles did all their damage in the opening half inning which started with leadoff batter Spender Wood legging out an infield single and scoring when Mat Willis followed with an RBI double to left field. Willis closed the book on the GCA offense when he scored from third on a one-out Hunter Helms ground out.

After the Willis double, Ferguson set down the next nine batters before Alex Morris led off the fourth with an infield single. The War Eagles posed a mini-threat in the seventh which opened with a Wyatt Keisler single and ended with Keisler getting caught in a rundown trying to score on a two-out single only to be chased down and tagged heading back to third base by CHS catcher Brady White.

The play started when Campbell Jordan fielded a base hit in right field. He then hit cutoff man, first baseman Holden Bunch, who fired to third baseman Zane Cook who started the pursuit of Keisler before getting the ball to white. 

The Bulldogs played error-free defense behind Ferguson in their second mid-afternoon matinee of the season.

“We played really well. I’m not disappointed in how we played,” Beckley said of his team’s effort in the setback. “Obviously, I don’t like losing but, if you play like we did, more times than not, we are going to come out on top.

 “I thought coach (Brian) Kersey did a tremendous job of positioning our outfielders and our players. There were certain situations where we could tell, based on their stance and where their swing was, where the ball may be going. We were right in a lot of those situations.”

The loss was the third in a row for a CHS squad which opened the spring break tournament with a 5-4 win over South Aiken before falling to North Central, Lugoff-Elgin and Gray Collegiate. Beckley said there were several rays of sunshine which came through the clouds, not the least of which was the return of 6-foot-6 lefty Holden Bunch to the mound for a scoreless one-inning relief stint on Wednesday.

“We’re disappointed that we were 1-3 this week but, we feel like we played pretty well in three out of those four games,” Beckley said. “We’re continuing to make progress and, hopefully, we’ll get there by the playoffs.

“We’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to continue to get better. I believe in that. I believe in our system and, I believe in our guys, especially if we get (Holden) Bunch back; look out at playoff time.”

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