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White-hot Laffin helps KC to 8-3 win in opener

Posted: June 14, 2018 9:41 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I/

P-17 THIRD BASEMAN Noah Rabon prepares to fire a throw to first base to retire Lexington’s Zack Smith on this grounder which ended the first inning of game one on Tuesday at American Legion Park.

On two occasions this past spring, Stephen Carmon had the chance to see Jake Laffin from his perch inside the Camden High School dugout as an assistant on head coach Denny Beckley’s staff. 

In those two games, Laffin went a combined 2-for-4 during a breakout campaign in which the Lugoff-Elgin junior would bat at a .403 clip and earn 4A All-State honors at season’s end.

Carmon now has a clearer view of Laffin and likes what he is seeing. 

As the first-year head coach of the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team, Carmon gets to watch the rising senior at L-E go about his business on a daily business. Lately, for Laffin, business has been good.

Belting a double and three singles in five at-bats, Laffin helped KC to an 8-3 win over visiting Lexington in Tuesday’s first game of a twinbill which started in Lexington the previous night --- only to be washed out by rain in the bottom of the first inning --- before being moved to American Legion Park for Tuesday.’s regulary scheduled single game

Not only did Laffin collect four hits in the opener, he added two more in the nightcap, raising his team-high batting average to .538.

“I told somebody this earlier tonight that Jake is just a professional hitter,” Carmon said of his three-hole batter. “Every time he comes up to bat, you think that he’s going to get a hit. I’m glad that he’s on our team.”

Laffin’s bat combined with Tate’s Abbott’s complete game pitching performance helped the 17ers improve to 3-1 in League III play and, by evening’s end, 7-2, on the season.

Abbott, a rising junior at Camden High and an All-Region 4-AAA selection this past spring, scattered nine hits, struck out three Grizzlies and did not issue a walk after the game resumed Tuesday to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Lexington scored solo runs in each of the first three frames to jump to a 3-1 lead. Abbott, a right-hander, fired blanks over the closing four frames and got stronger as the night went on.

“Tate did a great job,” said Carmon of Abbott’s 81-pitch effort. “Tate will always be a good pitcher as long as his mind is in the game and it doesn’t wander. 

“We told all our pitchers tonight that we had a good defense behind them and if they would throw strikes, we would score runs for them but don’t give them anything. Make them earn it. For the most part tonight, we did that.”

Ironically, it was three errors in the home half of the first which led to Lexington taking a 1-0 lead. KC matched that in the second frame by getting to Post 4 starter Will Lott for a run in the second as Justin Dorton sent a one-out single to right, took second on a wild pitch and scored from there on Hunter Coleman’s two-out single through the box to even things at 1-1.

Abbott was nicked for single runs in both the second and third frames but kept the damage to a minimum as a pair of inning-ending fly outs left runners on the corners both times. After that, Abbott allowed four hits the rest of the way while retiring the final four batters he faced, in succession.

KC, which banged out nine hits in the win, gave Abbott the lead for keeps with a three-run fourth.

The inning started with Noah Rabon’s infield single. Rabon advanced to second on Coleman’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Josh Boone belted a triple to left field. Boone evened things at three, scoring on a Bradwin Salmond double to right. Salmond made it a 4-3 game when he came around from second on Laffin’s single to center.

Abbott and the 17ers nursed their one-run advantage until the hosts got to Austin Muse, Lexington’s sidearm-throwing righty, for a pair in the sixth. 

Muse, who came on in relief of Lott to work a 1-2-3 fifth, hit Boone to open the sixth. After stealing second, Boone moved to third on Salmond’s sacrifice bunt along the first base line. Muse picked up the roller and tried a behind-the-back toss to first base which was off the mark as Boone scored from second while Salmond switched place and rtook over Boone’s former spot. After Salmond swiped third, he scored on Laffin’s liner over leaping second baseman Cameron Cribb’s glove for a 6-3 KC advantage.

The visitors --- in this game which continued to be played with Lexington as the home team ---- tacked on two more runs in the seventh. Coleman reached on a one-out walk and moved to third on Salmond’s fielders’ choice. After stealing second, Salmond followed Coleman home on Zac Branham’s two-out liner to center to make it 8-3.

In addition to Laffin’s four-hit game, Boone added a triple and a single while driving in a run for the locals.

Carmon said he knew nothing about Lott, who allowed a first inning double to Laffin on Monday after Salmond and Branham were retired on line drive outs to open the game. The KC boss said he felt it would only be a matter of when before his offense timed up Lott.

“We did hit him well (Monday) night,” Carmon said. “We were seeing the ball well; I felt good about it. We have a bunch of good hitters on this team. I have confidence in our guys being able to hit against anybody.

“We’re going to see (Sumter ace) Lathon Todd (on Wednesday.)  I told our guys just to embrace the challenge. He’s one of the best pitchers in the state so let’s embrace the challenge in front of us and try and rough him up.”

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