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Five wins takes 17ers streak to a dozen

Posted: June 25, 2018 2:50 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

JUSTIN DORTON COLLECTED four hits, drove in two runs and pitched 6.2 innings of scoreless ball for Post 17 in last weekend’s Palmetto Invitational.

Summer’s dog days have arrived early for American Legion baseball teams and Kershaw County is barking loudly.

Post 17 followed up Thursday’s 4-1 victory over visiting League III foe Manning-Santee by winning all four of its games in the Palmetto Legion Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. The 5-0 long weekend extended the locals’ win streak to 12 straight games, raised their mark in League III to a league-leading 8-1 while improving to 15-2 on the season.

First-year KC head coach Stephen Carmon said running the table in the tournament was nice but said coming away with the league victory Thursday at American Legion Park was the most important objective for his surging squad which needs one victory to equal last year’s total accomplished in 22 games.

“That was a huge win,” Carmon said. “I told the boys before the game with a win over Manning would be big for us going into (this) week and as far as trying to win the league. 

“Hartsville ended up losing one game to Manning last week so, it ended up where if we win one more (League III) game, we clinch first place.”

KC came into Thursday’s contest having blanked Manning-Santee on the road two nights earlier, 4-0. Even with his team playing as well as they have in the month of June, Carmon said he knew the second game against Post 68 in three nights would not be a gimme.

“They fight hard. Their pitchers throw strikes and they make the routine plays on defense,” he said. 

“We came out flat and in the third inning, I got on the boys a little bit and got them fired up. And, we did just enough to get the win.”

The visitors got to KC starter Zac Branham for an unearned run on two hits and a two-out error in the top of the first. The right-hander allowed two more hits the next six innings as he finished his complete game by scattering four hits with six strikeouts while improving to 2-1 on the season.

The hosts got to Post 68 starter Dalton Page for a pair in the bottom of the fourth to supply Branham with all the run support he would need.

Wynston Dyer opened the frame by drawing a five-pitch walk. He went to third on an error on a ball hit by Justin Dorton. Dyer evened things at 1-1, scoring on a wild pitch as Dorton moved to third on the play. A Chris Rivers ground out to shortstop plated Dorton with what proved to be the game-winning run. 

An inning later, the 17ers tacked on a pair of insurance runs in a bottom of the fifth in which Jaiden Garner drew a leadoff walk before stealing second. He would eventually score on a wild pitch to make it a 3-1 game. William Cobb, who got aboard on a fielders’ choice would make it 4-1 when he came in on Brady White’s one-out sacrifice fly to center field.

The hosts collected seven hits on the evening with leadoff batter Bradwin Salmond having three of those.

Palmetto Invitational

Post 17 7, Danville (Ky.) 0: Playing four non-league games in less than 48 hours forced/allowed Carmon to try some different lineups, get all his players some playing time and rest some of his starters.

One move which could not have been predicted was sending catcher Chase Galloway to the mound to start Friday’s 5 p.m. game against Danville (Ky.) at Mike Johnson Park in Georgetown. Galloway appeared in relief one time last summer for the 17ers and was looking for another opportunity to pitch this season. Carmon gave the 2017 Lugoff-Elgin graduate that chance on Friday and the right-hander came through with flying colors.

Galloway needed 101 pitches to blank the young Kentucky squad. He fanned nine batters and walked three in a complete game effort.

“Chase has been asking to pitch for a while,” Carmon said with a laugh. “I knew Danville was a young team and I thought that if we could throw Chase in there to save some pitching and if Chase could throw strikes, maybe, we could get two or three innings out of him and then, bring in Hunter Coleman or, someone else to finish it out.

“We ended up scoring some runs early, got comfortable and Chase threw strikes and ended up going the whole game. He did a good job. He proved that he might be helpful throwing, if we need him, in the playoffs. That was a nice surprise.”

Danville did not advance a runner beyond second base in a game in which KC did all its damage in the opening two frames starting with a five-run bottom of the first which opened with a bang as Coleman sent a leadoff home run to right center to put the hosts on top, 1-0.

Garner then singled and scored on a wild pitch. Branham, who singled, stole second and took third on a wild pitch, scored on Noah Rabon’s single to center. Rabon scored the fourth run on a Rivers sac fly to center. Dyer, who was hit by a pitch made it 5-0 when he came home on a Holden Bunch single to center.

An inning later, Garner singled to left and stole second. Branham then reached via error with both runners scoring on Dorton’s two-out double to center.

P-17 7, Greenwood 1: Saturday morning in Georgetown, Holden Bunch went six innings, allowing an unearned run on three hits with four strikeouts before Coleman came on to finish things out by working a perfect seventh frame.

The 17ers scored all their runs in a three-inning span. In the top of the second, they went on top, 1-0, as Branham was hit by a pitch and later scored on a passed ball.

The roof caved in on Greenwood in a four-run KC third.

With two gone and nobody on, Jake Laffin was hit by a pitch and stole second. Rabon then got on with a walk. William Cobb singled in Laffin with the second run. Branham was then hit by a pitch before an error allowed Rabon and Cobb to come in. White’s single drove in Branham to make it 5-0.

KC added a pair in the sixth with Josh Boone getting on after being hit by a pitch. He scored on Laffin’s single while Laffin made it 7-0 when he came in from second on an error off a ball hit by Cobb.

P-17 5, Goose Creek 2: For the most part, wins and losses in the tournament did not matter to Carmon. That mindset changed when KC met Goose Creek in game three.

Post 166 is the League I leader and has been a postseason nemesis for KC in the past and could be a potential opponent in July. Carmon admitted that his players got serious in Saturday’s second game.

“One thing that I’ve learned in coaching, is that you have to find different things to try and get the boys excited,” Carmon said. “For the Goose Creek game, my pre-game talk was that the team we were playing was ranked second in the state and, ranked ahead of us. I told them, ‘Let’s go out and show everybody why we should be ranked ahead of them.’

“I think it got our boys fired up a little bit and, they responded.”

Carmon said a play in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference in the final outcome.

“They are a tough team. They have some tough players,” Carmon said of Goose Creek which had the bases loaded with two gone in the bottom of the sixth only for Rabon to make a diving stab of a hard-hit liner down the third base line which turned into an inning-ending out. 

“It could have gone either way. Our guys just stepped up and made the plays.”

GC scored a run off KC starter Jay Lynch in the third. The 17ers answered with a three-spot in the fourth.

The KC rally started with consecutive two-out walks issued to Cobb and Branham. Galloway, who was struggling at the plate earlier in the season, continued on his recent roll by unloading a three-run blast to left center to put the guests on top, 3-1.

In the sixth, Laffin doubled, stole third and scored on Branham’s sac fly to right. After Post 166 scored a run in the bottom of that frame, KC tacked on a fifth run in the seventh as Salmond walked a scored from third on Laffin’s third hit of the afternoon.

KC collected eight hits in the win with Laffin getting three of those while Galloway had a single to go along with his three-run blast.

Lynch went the first 5.1 innings, allowing three hits while fanning four to improve to 4-0 on the season. Coleman came in the sixth and did not allow a base runner to earn his first save.

P-17 3, Pitt County (N.C.) 0: Playing on a Sunday afternoon in which heat alerts were posted throughout most of the region, Dorton threw strikes and mowed the Tar Heel State entry down by throwing 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. The lefty improved to 3-0 as he gave up three hits before handing the ball to Salmond, who closed the contest.

Dorton threw 82 pitches while delivering 16 first-pitch strikes to the 25 batters he faced.

“Justin worked fast; he got a lot of quick innings,” Carmon said. “There were a lot of 1-2-3 innings in this game. We played good defense; we did not make any errors and there wasn’t a lot of hits in this game, either.”

Laffin was involved in all the scoring starting with a solo blast to left center --- his second of the season --- with two gone in the bottom of the first. The 2018 4A All-State selection at L-E then doubled in the third, sending Branham to third base. Branham scored on a wild pitch while Laffin made it 3-0, coming in on Rabon’s single.

Carmon said he entered the tournament wanting to use the four games as a springboard to the final week of the regular season as well as for the state playoffs.

“We want to win every game we play but the goal was to go out and be competitive,” he said of the tourney. “We wanted to get guys who had not had a lot of at-bats or, who had not thrown a lot of pitches some more playing time and get us ready for the playoffs and get guys more experience going into the playoffs. We did that and winning all our games, as well.

“I really don’t have to tell our guys much. They’re very competitive. They want to win. I wasn’t really worried about winning or losing; I just wanted to get a lot of guys playing time.”

Keeping POSTed: It’s not as if the locals need it, but they are expected to get more pitching help this week when Devin Beckley returns to the fold. Beckley, who pitched at the Citadel this past spring and played for the 17ers in 2016 and 2017, was named the Cy Young award winner in the for the Forestbrook Mallards of the Beach Collegiate Baseball League last week … With his five hits in the last two games over the weekend, Laffin continues to lead the 17ers in batting average (.477), home runs (two), hits (21), doubles (six) while being tied with Galloway for the team lead with 10 runs batted in … Post 17’s pitching staff has a combined 1.78 earned run average with Dorton leading all starters with a 1.25 ERA followed by Branham (1.27), Tate Abbbott (1.61) and Lynch (2.75) … Salmond, who leads the team with four saves, has a 0.00 ERA. The right-hander has not allowed an earned run in 12 innings of work.

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