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Camden’s unlikely run continues with 3-1 win over M-C

Posted: May 3, 2018 10:23 a.m.
Updated: May 4, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Jack Crayne/

CAMDEN JUNIOR HOLDEN BUNCH threw just 77 pitches in a complete game 3-1 win over Mid-Carolina on Monday.

Trading baseball spikes for shiny leather dress shoes, Camden is going to the ball.

Ten days after having to score four runs in a seventh inning rally to beat Chester to lock down the second seed out of Region 4-AAA --- on a night in which the Bulldogs could have finished anywhere from second to fourth place ---, Camden refuses to leave the dance floor.

Having disposed of Mid-Carolina, 3-1, in Monday’s AAA District III tournament championship, Denny Beckley’s young squad advanced to Thursday’s AAA Upper State championship tournamen. The Dogs took on 4-AAA titlist Indian Land in game one. Camden (12-15) will travel to face either Seneca or Pendleton Saturday at 1 p.m. in the four-team, double-elimination tourney.

Beckley, whose lineup included one senior fielder along with four sophomores and a freshman in Monday’s victory, admitted that his team has surprised even him in not being intimidated by their postseason surroundings.

“I’d be lying if I would say that I’m not surprised,” he said of his team’s playoff run, “but, we did show signs of this earlier in the year in our wins and with how we played against some of our tougher opponents. We knew we had it in us. It was just a matter of getting everybody to buy into what we were doing and for everybody to have that proper mental toughness that it takes to be confident, yet, relaxed in the playoffs.”

Camden allowed just five runs while scoring 13 en route to sweeping its three district tourney contests. The Dogs also committed just one error in those 21 innings of play. Beckley said, once again, it proves that at this stage in the season receiving good pitching and playing solid defense can take a team a long way.

“We feel like we have a good pitching staff. The key, as we’ve said so many times, is to play good defense and get some timely hitting,” he said of his troops which do not have a .300 hitter on the roster but have delivered some big, late-inning hits especially in the second half of the season.

“If you look at our stat sheet, batting averages and all that type of stuff, it would make you want to throw up. But we’re getting the hits when we need them and that’s what keeps you moving along.”

In order for CHS to advance into the Upper State tourney, it faced a Mid-Carolina offense which has been built around playing inside their cozy home field. Playing at spacious American Legion Park was an advantage for the hosts. 

“They play that old ‘gorilla style’ baseball,” Beckley said of M-C’s swinging hard and trying to go yard. “If we had played at their place, we probably would have given up two or three home runs but, they were fly outs here at our field.”

The Rebels did all their damage against Bunch by scoring their lone run of the night in the top of the first which opened with leadoff batter Jalen Caldwell ripping a triple to left field. He scored when Bryce Medlock followed with a ground out for the quick 1-0 lead.

Camden’s defense would come up big in the second which started with a Jeb Fulmer single to center. With one gone and Fulmer on third base, Jack Lominick sent a fly ball to Campbell Jordan in right field.  In full sprint, the senior tracked the ball down a few feet in front of the 340-foot sign in right field. He stopped and fired a strike to his cutoff man, shortstop Jake Tanner, whose throw to catcher Brady White gunned down Fulmer at the plate for the inning-ending double play. That, Beckley said, sent a jolt of energy through his team’s dugout.

“What an unbelievable catch by Campbell Jordan,” Beckley said of the running snag. “We were yelling ‘two’ (throw to second base) from the bench to try and keep the runner from first getting into scoring position.

“Their coach was making a good call … heck, the ball was about 338 feet away from home plate. It was a huge momentum-killer for them. They were already up, 1-0, and could have gone ahead, 2-0. You never know what the situation might have been but, once again, it was tremendous defense on our part.”

The Bulldogs reached M-C starter Fulmer for a solo run in the third to even things at 1-1.

Jacob Jordan sent a leadoff single to left before stealing second. He would score when freshman Zane Cook delivered a two-out single to left.

After Tanner caught a Hunter Clinton grounder, stepped on second and threw to first for a double play in the top of the fourth, the hosts took the lead for keeps in their half of the fourth inning. 

“We’re really proud of Jake Tanner and where he has come from this year,” Beckley said of his sophomore shortstop. “He’s been really solid for us and he had another great play when he got a ball going up the middle that would have started the (sixth) inning with a base hit. Instead, it was an out.”

Brady White delivered a leadoff single down the left field line to kick off the home half of the fourth before the Camden catcher was removed for courtesy runner Robert Spring who swiped second. With one gone, Bennett Caldwell hit a ground ball to third base which went for an error on which Spring advanced to third base while Caldwell landed on second, still with one out.

Bunch helped himself at the plate by sending a sacrifice fly to right field which plated Spring with the go-ahead run. One batter later, Jacob Jordan’s second hit of the game, a single to left, drove in Caldwell with the third run and a 3-2 Camden lead.

After having given up a leadoff single to start the top of the fifth, Bunch finished with a flourish. The 6-foot-5 lefty, who was not given the green light to play until the final week of March after having dealt with a labrum injury, retired the final nine batters he faced in succession, striking out the final two for his lone punch outs of a contest in which he did not issue a walk while scattering five base hits and facing just 25 batters.

“He did exactly what we were hoping for. We probably weren’t expecting it to be that great,” Beckley said of Bunch’s mound performance. “He was just phenomenal.

“We’re really proud of where Holden has some from. He struggled early with his labrum injury and this was only his fourth appearance and second start of the year. It was a pretty good piece of scrapbook material for him; winning in the district championship finals.”

Camden parlayed seven hits --- all singles --- into three runs with Jacob Jordan, a sophomore second baseman, and Cook both having two-hit nights while each drove home a run.

“I told coach (Drew) West after the first inning that there were going to be a lot of hits in this game,” Beckley said. “It was a beautiful day, a warm day. We felt like we were going to put the ball in play and it really figured into our plan of attack. I did a couple more hit and runs than I’ve been doing and we called for a one-out bunt.

“It changed our strategy, a little bit. I felt like we were going to be able to put the ball in play against (Fulmer) and, we did.”

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