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Dogs get last laugh in mistake-filled final frame to edge Cyclones, 6-5

Posted: April 18, 2018 2:28 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN PITCHER TATE ABBOTT is met by coaches and teammates including McKenzie Barrineau after striking out the side in the third inning from Tuesday’s win over Chester.

During the course of his post-game interview, Camden baseball coach Denny Beckley used the word “discombobulated” to explain his thought process when asked of tonight’s back end of a home-and-home series with Chester.

That seldom used word would have sufficed to cover what took place on the playing field at American Legion Park a minute or so earlier.

After having lost a three-run lead with one gone in the seventh, the host Bulldogs scored the winning run on a two-out passed ball in the bottom of the seventh to escape with a 6-5 victory over Chester in a wild contest which kept alive the Bulldogs’ hopes of earning the second seed from Region 4-AAA.

The Dogs improved to 4-3 in conference play heading into tonight’s regular season finale in Chester. Should Camden win and should Indian Land defeat Fairfield Central tonight, Camden would win the tie-breaker for second place in the five-team circuit and will host a first round state playoff game next Tuesday.

As confusing as what could happen for CHS should that scenario not unfold, it would make perfect sense after the circus-like atmosphere of the seventh inning.

Carrying a 5-2 lead into the seventh, with his pitch total climbing, Camden starter Tate Abbott got leadoff batter Anthony McCollugh to line out to center field on one pitch to open the final frame. Then, the fun started.

With two strikes on him, Danny Vess took an Abbott fastball to his left leg to get aboard. J.D. Carter followed with a single to right as Vess sprinted for third. The throw to the bag was off allowing Vess to score. Carter broke for second on the play and when the throw there went into right field, he kept running and did not stop until he slid safely home to make it 5-4.

Jordan Price kept the inning alive with a single to left before the Cyclone catcher was lifted for courtesy runner Jurrell Hill who, promptly stole second and was hit by the throw from catcher Brady White. When the ball ricocheted into left field, Hill picked himself up, rounded third and scored the tying run.

With Abbott’s pitch count all but exhausted, Beckley called on Bennett Caldwel. The righty got Tyson McKenzie looking for the second out before Luke Wright doubled to right center and took third on a wild pitch. Wright was left hanging there as Caldwell ended the bizarre inning by getting Dez Kelly watching on a called third strike.

The damage had the Cyclones scoring three times on as many hits while taking advantage of three Camden errors.

“It was some weird, weird stuff that happened at the end,” Beckley said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that. But we were able to keep our composure in the bottom of the seventh.”

Next came Camden’s turn to take its seat on the roller coaster ride. With two gone, Chester reliever Kendrick McAbee walked Abbott, who was re-inserted into the game. McKenzie Barrineau then lined a single to right center to put runners on first and second. Both players advanced on a passed ball before McAbee walked Holden Bunch to load the bases. Another passed ball rolled just far enough from Price as Abbott broke for home as he crossed the plate with a head-first slide with the winning run while his teammates poured out from their first base dugout.

Beckley said his batters displayed patience at the plate with two gone in the seventh.

“It started with Abbott getting on base,” he said. “And, McKenzie is seeing the ball well and when he is hitting line drives back up the middle toward the right center field gap, we know he is locked in. That’s what he’s been doing the last couple games.”

Abbott worked out of two jams in the first two frames in which the guests left a pair on in the top of the first before leaving the bags juiced in the second. He was given a quick 1-0 lead after one as White worked Wright for a two-out walk before the Camden backstop was replaced by courtesy runner William Spring who would take both third and home on wild pitches.

The Dogs tacked on solo runs in the third and fourth innings to extend their lead to 3-0.

Abbott’s two-out single to right got things going in the third. Courtesy runner Andrew Leaird would swipe second and came around on Barrineau’s single through the box. An inning later, Caldwell reached on a fielders’ choice, advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on Jake Tanner’s single to center. When the throw to try and get Caldwell going back to third missed the mark, it allowed Caldwell to score the third Camden run.

After a bumpy start, Abbott found his groove in the middle innings. He struck out the side in the third and raised his strikeout total to eight with another in a 1-2-3 fourth. He finished throwing 103 pitches while fanning 10.

“I thought Tate pitched really well in the first five innings,” Beckley said. “The two runs they got on the fifth, one was earned and the other was some bad base running stuff.”

Chester closed the gap to 3-2 with a two-run fifth which included Carter scoring from second after swiping the bag and having an errant throw. Camden answered with a run in the bottom half of the frame with Abbott hitting a rope along the right field line which he legged for a triple. Leaird scored when Barrineau sent a one-out sacrifice fly to deep right.

The Dogs upped the ante to 5-2 with a run in a sixth inning which had the looks of a larger frame.

Caldwell started the inning by reaching on an error before taking two bases on a wild pitch as Price could not locate the ball. Tanner then hit a comebacker to Wright, who threw to third to try and get Caldwell only for the throw to glance off the glove of Preston Kirby as Caldwell trotted home with the fifth run. Zane Cook then laid down a sacrifice bunt between the plate and third which Price fielded and threw to first for the out. Kirby was slow on getting back to third base as Beckley signaled Tanner to keep running there. Kirby was able to get back in time to apply the tag on Tanner for the second out which short-circuited a possible rally.

“I kick myself in the butt sometimes. I get a little antsy and want to holler things. Sometimes, I just need to let it play out,” Beckley said in taking the blame for that play.

“We had a sacrifice bunt and the third baseman wasn’t coming back to cover the bag and I was hollering for the runner to come to third and by the time I say something, it’s too late. I shouldn’t have even said anything.”

Camden ended the game being out-hit, 9-7, with Barrineau and Abbott both having two-hit nights with the former driving in two runs.

The two sides meet again tonight in a 6:30 start. Beckley said he expects another wild affair while saying his staff had not decided on who will get the starting nod on the mound. “I haven’t had much of a chance to think about it. I’m just a little discombobulated, right now,” he said.

What he knew was he was relieved to have a chance to play for a first round home playoff game after the dust had finally settled Tuesday.

“Survive and advance,” he said. 

“We talked, before the game, about these conference games being like playoff games for us. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what happens just as long as you come out with a ‘W’ and we did. Now, we’ll get ready to go on Friday and have another barn-burner up there.”


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