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Do or Dyer

Pinch-hit, walk-off single in 12th gives Kershaw County 6-5 win in series opener

Posted: July 10, 2018 1:15 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

KERSHAW COUNTY’S William Cobb takes to the air in taking third base on a wild pitch while Lexington third baseman Cole Lemacks looks for a throw from home plate in second inning action from Monday’s first round state playoff game at American Legion Park in Camden.

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From his seat in the press box at American Legion Park --- more on that later --- Kershaw County American Legion baseball coach Stephen Carmon opened the window and yelled instructions to his assistant coach, Ross Hough, to insert Wynston Dyer to pinch-hit for Jay Lynch with a one-ball count with runners on second and third with one out in a game knotted at 5-5 with visiting Lexington in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Five pitches later, Dyer took a Caleb Boozer fastball the opposite way, driving it through the hole between third and shortstop, to bring Bradwin Salmond home from third with the winning run for a 6-5 victory in Monday’s first game of the best-of-five state tournament opening series.

The walk-off single capped a three-hour, 56 minute marathon in which the two League III foes combined for 23 hits --- 15 coming off the hosts’ bats --- while equally dividing the 30 runners that were left on base. Pitching-wise, seven pitchers toed the rubber and threw 414 pitches, recording 20 strikeouts and issuing 13 walks.

All this was nearly too much for Carmon to have to watch from above the playing field. The first-year Post 17 head coach was serving a one game out of dugout suspension, imposed by a KC American Legion officials, after having stood up for one of his players and then, being ejected from the regular season finale at Orangeburg on June 29.

“It was awful,” Carmon said of his experience and his one-game vantage point. “When you’re up there, you can’t control much. I was getting nervous.

“It’s hard to watch a game when you’ve been a player for so long and, a coach for so long. I was talking to (PA announcer and former P-17 head coach Tyler) Pike up there and said that if felt like I was watching Carolina football; I’m so invested in it but, I can’t control it. It made me nervous. I feel better when I’m down here and can get my hands dirty.”

Carmon helped make the call of the long night in the home half of the 12th which opened with P-17 starting pitcher Zac Branham hitting a chopper through the hole and into left for a leadoff single against Boozer, who was nursing a 5-4 lead. Josh Boone, who enjoyed a four-hit night, then laid down a bunt along the first base side of the field which Boozer fielded and threw away to first as Branham circled the bases with the tying run while Boone landed on second base with no outs.

Salmond followed with an infield chopper for a single. Boone was thrown out at home trying to score from third on Justin Dorton’s grounder to shortstop for the first out. Both Salmond and Dorton moved into scoring position on a passed ball during Dyer’s at-bat which came after Carmon made the change by getting Hough’s attention from the press box after Lynch watched ball one.

Lynch, who worked 4.2 innings of nine-strikeout relief to pick up his sixth win in as many decisions, came into the game having had just two at-bats and was 0-for-2 on Monday. With the power-hitting Dyer on the bench, Carmon made the shout to get the Spring Valley graduate’s bat in the game. The move paid off in spades as Dyer’s liner brought an end to this night.

What Lynch was unable to do at the plate, he more than made up for with his gutsy 86-pitch performance. With the way the righty was pitching, it left KC no choice other than to have him bat in two previous key situations. The third time would be Dyer’s, not Lynch’s, charm.

“Coach Hough decided to pinch-hit Winston and, it worked out well for us,” Carmon said. “Wynston got the base hit and we didn’t have to use up another (fourth) arm.”

Truth be told, both sides had their chances to win the game before the bottom of the 12th.

Lexington did not attempt or, lay down a bunt in spite of getting the leading man aboard six times with three of those coming in the extra frames. Post 4 had a chance for a big inning in the top of the eighth with the game level at three.

The Grizzlies’ Chase Crouch got to second on a dropped fly to start things off. With one gone, a Dalton Lansdowne fly ball was dropped for a two-base error as Crouch pulled into third base. That ended reliever Hunter Coleman’s night after he worked 1.2 innings before being lifted for Lynch who, promptly walked Walker McDowell to load the bases with one away. Zack Smith’s sacrifice fly to Dorton in right plated Crouch with the go-ahead run before Lynch kept the deficit at 4-3 by getting Jay Beebe waving at a third strike.

KC responded by tying the game without a hit in the home portion of the eighth. With one gone, Jac Crouch issued consecutive four-pitch walks to Jaiden Garner and Branham to end his three-batter relief outing. Austin Muse, a right-handed submarine thrower, walked Boone to load the bases. Garner was forced at the plate for the second out. The 17ers stayed alive when Muse plunked Dorton to bring Branham across with the tying run. A ground out to second kept the game going into the ninth.

Post 17 threatened to end things in the 10th as it loaded the bases with two-out hits from Boone and Salmond before Dorton walked to end Muse’s night in favor of Boozer who, got a liner to second base to send the game into the 11th.

“We had the bases loaded twice with a chance to win the game …,” Carmon lamented.

The contest opened with what looked to be a pitching duel between Lexington righty and USC-Upstate signee Jonathan Howlett and Branham, a 2018 Lugoff-Elgin grad who signed with Florence-Darlington Tech.

William Cobb led off the second with a liner to right off Howlett for a single. Chase Galloway followed with a single to left and the guests had something going in a scoreless game. When a Howlett pitch hit the dirt, Cobb made the right read and took third on the wild pitch with Galloway moving to second. A Chris Rivers ground out to third base was deep enough to score Cobb. Boone then gave the locals a 2-0 lead when he drove a single through the box to bring in Galloway.

Branham, who was pitching on nine days rest, issued consecutive walks to Chase Crouch and Jackson Hannon to open the third. With the bags full with one gone, Smith dropped in a two-run single to left to even things at two. Branham kept the damage to a minimum by getting a strikeout and a ground out to keep runners on second and third.

The usually economic Branham threw 103 pitches in 5.2 innings of work in which he allowed six hits, fanned five batters, walked three and hit a pair. It was an uncharacteristic outing, Carmon said.

“Zac struggled a little bit tonight,” Carmon said. “Usually, Zac can go seven innings and throw 80-something pitches. He was a little wild today but, you have to give credit to them. They fouled off a lot of good pitches and they did a good job of not swinging at balls and putting the ball in play.

“We also had four errors tonight. When you give good teams free base runners, it’s always going to come back and bite you in the end.”

KC got to Howlett for a solo run in the sixth when Jake Laffin reached base on a one-out passed ball third strike. With two gone and Laffin on second, Cobb went the opposite way and delivered an RBI double which landed just inside the right field foul line to give the 17ers a 3-2 lead which was erased a half-inning later when Lexington scored the tying run when McDowell greeted Coleman with a two-out  infield single. Coleman, who inherited a bases-loaded mess, avoided more trouble when Noah Rabon made a diving grab of a Smith liner and tagged the base with his glove while on his knees.

In addition to Lynch’s stellar performance out of the bullpen, the 17ers clubbed 15 hits with Boone’s 4-for-5, one RBI night leading the way. Cobb and Salmond both had three hits with Cobb driving in a run.

“We weren’t swinging at good pitches early,” Carmon said of Howlett’s seven-inning performance in which he scattered nine hits while striking out four batters and allowing three runs. “He has a good slider and some of our guys were struggling with that. 

“Luckily, we did just enough to get the win.”

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