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Pendleton puts an end to Dogs’ wild state tournament journey

Posted: May 7, 2018 2:22 p.m.
Updated: May 8, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN SHORTSTOP JAKE TANNER took to the air to come up with this high chopper in Thursday’s loss to Indian Land.

In a season in which nothing has come easy, was there any reason to believe that Camden would take the path most traveled in its quest to win the AAA Upper State baseball title?

 The Bulldogs, who won three straight to capture the District III crown, opened the four-team Upper State event with Thursday’s 4-1 loss to visiting Indian Land. The win was the third for the Warriors over their Region 4-AAA rivals this season as senior Nolan Bolt throttled the CHS offense on five hits while fanning 10 in a 102-pitch complete game outing. The only run the hosts scored was unearned.

Taking advantage of a large and wide strike zone for both he and Camden starter Tate Abbott, Bolt was able to get ahead of batters and make the Dogs go after his pitch.

For the most part, said Camden head coach Denny Beckley, his batters put themselves in tough positions in getting behind in the count against IL’s senior right-hander.

“The umpire had a wide strike zone all night long and Bolt did a good job of getting ahead in the count and then, extending the (strike) zone,” he said. “We didn’t make good adjustments at the plate; several times (six), we took called third strikes that were being called strikes all night long, regardless of whether the pitch might have been outside the strike zone by a little bit.”

Of the five singles surrendered by Bolt, three came off the bat of junior Bennett Caldwell while Holden Bunch and Sam Ferguson had a hit each.

As for Camden (12-16), Abbott worked the first six frames, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out eight.

While the sophomore right-hander (3-5) was tagged with the loss, his head coach said Abbott showed plenty of poise first start in a game of this magnitude.

“I just talked to Tate and I told him that I thought that he did a great job of pitching under pressure tonight,” Beckley said. “They had so many runners on base and had so many hits. A lot of their hits were not screaming line drives but, they were placed in perfect spots, it seemed like. Tate really pitched himself out of a lot of jams and showed signs of real good pitch ability.

“Obviously, we’re not happy about the outcome but I do think that Tate took a big step forward tonight. He can really learn from this and can help him to become a better player if he takes another step from what he learned tonight.”

The Warriors jumped to a quick lead as Daniel Gueldner led off the game by beating out an infield single and stealing second base. He scored the game’s first run as he came across from second on Bolt’s one-out single to center.

Camden evened the contest by scoring a run in the bottom of the second without the aid of a hit.

Abbott got aboard on a dropped third strike before Robert Spring came on as the courtesy runner. Spring moved to second on a wild pickoff throw to first base. He took third on a wild pitch and tied the game at 1-1 when he sprinted home on a passed ball.

The Warriors followed suit as Chase Dougherty got aboard when his bunt was thrown away, resulting in a three-base error. He scored what would be the winning run on a wild pitch. The error on Dougherty’s bunt was only Camden’s second in four postseason games.

IL tacked on a third run in the fifth with Dougherty figuring into that score as he led the inning off by being hit by a pitch and scoring on Bolt’s booming double to left for a 3-1 lead. Abbott kept the damage to a minimum, getting a ground out and a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.

The fact that the Warriors scored runs two and three by getting the leadoff man on without getting a base hit both times grated at Beckley.

“We’ve been playing really good defense all along and, we still had some really good plays on defense tonight, too,” Beckley said. “It was kind of surprising because, normally, we’ve made those plays and we didn’t tonight. They capitalized on it.”

Camden’s best scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth which opened with Holden Bunch sending a liner to center. Caldwell followed by hitting a chopper which bounced over the head of Trace White at second base as the Dogs were in business with runners on first and second with no outs. Jacob Jordan advanced the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt as Beckley called on Ferguson to pinch-hit with one gone.

Ferguson sent a fly ball to right field which Connor Ouimet caught on the run while his momentum carried him toward the plate on the play. Bunch tagged up and took a few steps toward home as Beckley held him at third while Ouimet’s one-hopper landed up the third base line. Bolt would escape unscathed with an inning-ending strikeout.

Later, Beckley said he wished that he had a crystal ball at his side on Ferguson’s fly ball.

“As soon as I saw it come off the bat,” he said, “I knew it was going to be shallow; their outfield was playing shallow already. I really wasn’t thinking about sending Holden but, hindsight being 20-20, if we would have sent him, we would have scored because the throw was off line.”

The guests gave Bolt a three-run cushion, pushing across a run in the sixth, which was Abbott’s final inning of work, on Gueldner’s two-out bloop single to right for a 4-1 lead.

Camden posed a quasi-threat in the sixth with Campbell Jordan reaching on a two-base error only for Bolt to retire the next three batters thanks to help from first baseman Lawson Otte. The junior made a pretty backhanded stab of Mc-Kenzie Barrineau’s rocket along the first base line and flipped the ball to Bolt covering first to end the inning and save a run.

The Dogs had two hits in the seventh and had Jacob Jordan, who got on with a two-out fielders’ choice and was standing on second after Ferguson sent a single to right. Bolt, however, got the final batter looking at a third strike.

“A lot of credit goes to them and how they pitched us,” Beckley said. “We just didn’t have any of the magic that we’ve been having lately with some timely hitting tonight. Hat’s off to them.”

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