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St. James ends Demons’ season

Sharks advance in 4A Lower State tournament with 6-1 victory

Posted: May 10, 2018 9:56 a.m.
Updated: May 11, 2018 1:00 a.m.

It came earlier than they would have wanted it to but, when the Lugoff-Elgin baseball team gathered for the final time to listen to head coach Randy Stokes, they heard a talk more about life than what happened minutes earlier on the playing field at St. James High School.

For the second time in five days, the host Sharks took down L-E. This time, however, the 6-1 loss ended the Demons’ season in the fifth game of the 4A Lower State championship tournament. It also closed the book on a 20-9 campaign and, for nine seniors, it was their final game donning the red and blue uniform.

“It was tough,” Stokes said of his final meeting of the year with his squad. 

“I told our kids that they had a lot to be proud of and that our community was proud of them. They did a good job of representing our school and our community and they had nothing to be ashamed of. I thought we had a great year.”

St. James, which defeated L-E, 11-6 at Optimist Field in last Thursday’s Lower State opener, advanced to meet Chapin in Wednesday’s Lower State championship round won by the host Eagles in two games.

Coming off an emotional, 4-3 walk-off win against A.C. Flora on Saturday to keep their season afloat, the Demons trailed, 1-0, after one inning following a lengthy journey to Murrells Inlet as SJ leadoff batter Jacob English led off the home half of the first with a double to left center. After stealing third, he scored the night’s first run on Trystan Freeman’s sacrifice fly to left field off L-E starter Justin Dorton.

After having left runners on first and second in the top of the first, the Demons got to Sharks’ starter Cam White for a run in the second which opened with a Josh Boone single. After swiping second, Boone advanced to third on a J.C. Legrand ground out. With two gone, Dalton Reeves belted a double to center to knot things at 1-1.

The hosts went on top, 2-1, in the second as Anthony Peck led off with a single to left and later scored as L-E rolled a 6-4-3 double play to help Dorton get out of a potential jam. An inning later, a Demon error allowed Freeman, who stroked a leadoff double, to score from third to make it 3-1.

“We had a chance to get some momentum going in our dugout then, they got a big hit and we couldn’t do anything about it,” Stokes said of his team not being able to get ahead and play with a lead which may have put pressure on the hosts.

Shaking off a bumpy first three frames in which L-E collected two of its three hits but left four runners on base, White settled down. During one stretch between the third and sixth innings, White retired 10 straight batters as he would finish allowing three hits while fanning three and walking four batters.

“He threw a lot of strikes and it seemed like every ball that we hit was right at somebody,” Stokes said of White and his team’s offense. “We had a lot of ground balls that were right at people. We just didn’t get enough hits.”

The Sharks tacked on a pair in the fifth which started with a Cam Dean single followed by Freeman’s RBI double. Freeman scored on one of four L-E errors during an inning in which Dorton, a lefty, was removed from the mound in favor of Bradwin Salmond, a right-hander.

Dorton worked into the fifth inning, allowing five runs --- three earned --- on seven hits. He struck out one and walked two batters.

“Going in,” Stokes said, “we thought that we had to go with a three-pitch guy and we thought Justin could frustrate them with changeups because they’re so aggressive. We just left some balls over the middle of the plate and when we made mistakes, they hit them pretty hard.”

The Sharks added a run in the sixth against Salmond, who Stokes hoped, would come into the game as a closer given the perfect scenario.

“Bradwin was going to be our late guy at the end, if we had a chance (to win),” Stokes said. “We felt that would be the best role for him. J.D. was throwing good pitches but, they just hit some balls off the end of the bat and we didn’t make a play on a couple balls where he made good pitches. I thought Justin got stronger as the game went on. He was throwing his breaking ball for a strike. They were just hitting the ball where we weren’t.”

Stokes said coming off Saturday’s emotional win over A.C. Flora did not leave his team emotionally drained. But, as was the case against the Falcons, St. James put its leadoff batter on base five times.

 “I thought our kids were in the games and showed that sense of urgency that we needed,” Stokes said. “(St. James) did a real good job of getting that first runner of the inning on base.”

Boone, Dorton and Reeves accounted for all three Demon hits with Reeves, a junior catcher, driving in the lone L-E run.

After the game, Stokes said his team and coaches had no regrets. As the years roll by, he hopes his players will look back at this season with fond memories.

 “Our kids did everything we asked them to do,” he said. “I told them that baseball was a part of their life and, when they look at the big picture, hopefully, in the time that they’ve been here, they’ve learned more about life than baseball. If that is the case, then I feel like our coaching staff did a good job.”

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