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‘A win and a half’

Dorton’s complete game saves arms, gives KC 2-1 series lead

Posted: July 12, 2018 10:42 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

KERSHAW COUNTY’S BRADY WHITE slides head first across home plate with his team’s third run of the game in second inning action from Wednesday’s 9-5 win over Lexington whose catcher, Zack Smith, blocks the throw.

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On a night when Post 17 needed him most, Justin Dorton did what he does best.

In a first round state American Legion playoff series with Lexington knotted at a game apiece, Dorton threw a complete game for his 11th win in as many decisions over the past two summer campaigns as Kershaw County upended visiting Post 7, 9-5, at American Legion Park.

KC (19-4) could have wrapped up the series with a road win last night. Should Lexington have come away with the victory, the fifth and deciding game of the best-of-five set will be played tonight at American Legion Park at 7 p.m.

In a series in which KC won the opener in 12 frames, 6-5, on Monday before dropping game two one night later, 8-4, and with pitching suddenly becoming an issue, the 17ers sought to get as many innings out of Dorton to preserve arms for Thursday and, possibly, Friday. Dorton, who improved to 5-0 on the season, again delivered.

The lefty, who is signed to play at Florence-Darlington Tech, survived a bumpy first four frames to throw blanks over the final three. The 2018 Lugoff-Elgin grad scattered 10 hits while not striking out a batter in a 97-pitch outing in which he let his defense do their job behind him along the way.

In short, said KC head coach Stephen Carmon, this was a typical Dorton outing with a familiar result.

“Justin battled his butt off,” said the first year P-17 boss. “I told him after the game that not only did he get the win for us but, he helped us out and he helped our pitching staff out, so much. We have some guys missing and our depth is not too great, right now. This was more than just a win with Justin going the whole game, it was kind of like a win and a half because he helped our pitching staff out and allowed us to save some guys to throw (Thursday.)”

The KC rotation took a hit this week with Holden Bunch being on vacation while Tate Abbott was playing in a showcase event in Atlanta. That shortened a staff which was designed to go the full five games with the arrival of Devin Beckley. Dorton’s going the entire way opened more options for Carmon and pitching coach Ross Hough to explore with a “two games to win one” scenario.

Post 7, which scored five times in bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday to rally from a 4-3 deficit, looked to build on that momentum one night later as Dalton Lansdowne opened the game by hitting a sinking liner to right field. William Cobb tried to make a diving grab on the ball which went for a leadoff triple. When Zack Smith lined a one-out RBI double to left, it looked as if Lexington would pick up where it left off on Tuesday. Dorton, however, stunted the possible rally by picking off a leaning Smith at second base.

Lexington, which has pitching issues of its own, sent right-hander Cameron Cribb to the mound. After KC was held to seven hits on Tuesday, it got a quick start out of the blocks on its home field by scoring a pair in each of the first two innings.

In the first, Zac Branham was hit by a pitch with one gone. After taking second on a wild pitch, he scored from there on Cobb’s booming two-out double which one-hopped it to the fence in left. Cobb came in when Chase Galloway followed with a double along the left field line.

After the visitors evened things with a run in the top of the second, the hosts responded by hanging another pair up on the board. Again, timely hitting was involved.

A Brady White leadoff single was followed by Jaiden Garner advancing the KC catcher with a sacrifice bunt. With two away and White on second, Bradwin Salmond sent an RBI single to right. Salmond then scored the fourth run of the game when Branham sent a double to the gap in left center to make it 4-2.

KC collected 13 hits on the night with four of those coming with two outs in the opening two frames. That, Carmon said, provided momentum in his dugout while taking the air from that in Post 7’s. “Big two-out hits will win you a lot of ballgames,” he said.

Lexington, however, was not going away. In the third, after Dorton picked off Lansdowne at first, Walker McDowell sent a one-out double to left and would score to make it 4-3 on a Jackson Hannon single.

KC responded with a run in its half of the third with Cobb lining a leadoff single to left and later scoring on a balk as Cribb dropped the ball behind his back on his delivery to the plate.

In a game which had all the earmarks of a slugfest, Lexington came back and scored a pair in the fourth to level things at 5-5 with Jay Beebe driving in the fourth run with a single before scoring on a Post 17 error.

The fourth nearly turned into Dorton’s final inning of work as Carmon admitted he thought about pulling the plug on the southpaw, who got McDowell to fly out to right to end the inning.

In the home half of the fourth, Branham clubbed a one-out double to the gap in right center and scored from second on Jake Laffin’s single to left to put the 17ers up for keeps at 6-5. An inning later, Noah Rabon worked Cribb for a leadoff walk which brought Jac Crouch on in relief for the second time in three nights. After White’s bunt moved Rabon to second, Garner sent a one-out RBI single to center while taking second on the throw home. Garner made it an 8-5 game when he scored on a throwing error.

KC tacked on an insurance run in the sixth as Cobb singled with one gone --- his third hit of the game --- and scored from first on Galloway’s double to right for the 9-5 lead.

Cobb led the 13-hit P-17 attack with three hits. This came after he belted a two-run blast on Tuesday which came after a three-hit night in the series opener. Cobb, a 2017 Camden High graduate who is a linebacker at Limestone College, did not pick up a bat since his final game with the Bulldogs in May of 2017 until rejoining the 17ers this spring. He is batting at a .409 clip. Carmon said he is not shocked as to how well Cobb has gotten back into the swing of things following the long layoff.

“If you know William Cobb,” he said, “you know he’s a kid that, in whatever he’d doing, he’s giving it 150 percent. He’s going to give you everything that he’s got. He’s very competitive and he wants to win. 

“He puts the work in and gets extra swings. Today, we put him in right field because we were trying to get as many hitters in the game as we could and he didn’t have a problem with it. I thought he did a great job out there tonight. I hope he stays hot.”

In addition to Cobb, Branham, Galloway and Rabon had two-hit nights as the KC bats seemed to warm up with the weather. And, a pre-game talk from Carmon did not hurt, either.

“I talked to the guys before the guys before the game and reminded them that, especially at playoff time, you can’t just win on talent. You have to be mentally and physically invested into the game,” Carmon said.

“We had a talk before (batting practice) and they got their minds in the right place. After the game, I told them that I was so proud of them for responding to our talk earlier tonight.”

Keeping POSTed: Carmon said he wanted to end the series on Thursday and have a long weekend to prepare for a possible second round series and a meeting with Sumter, which disposed of Hartsville in three straight. Should KC win this series, it would host the P15s in game one next Monday. “I don’t even want to mess around with it. We have to come out (Thursday) and finish them,” Carmon said of returning to Camden for a fifth and deciding game with Lexington on Friday … Among the starting pitching options for Thursday’s game were Hunter Coleman and Salmond with Galloway, possibly figuring into the mix. Wynston Dyer also threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, just in case …The KC vs. Lexington series is the only one in the Coastal and Midlands regions which did not result in a sweep. In addition to Sumter, Florence and Goose Creek/Charleston won their respective series in three games … In the Upstate region, Anderson which split its first two games with Newberry-Chapin, forfeited the remainder of the series due to not having enough players … The nine runs which the 17ers scored on Wednesday were the most they scored in a game since a 10-5 win over Lexington 14 games ago. The locals average scoring 5.5 runs per game … KC was without shortstop Todd Mattox, who is on vacation. Salmond moved from centerfield to play shortstop, once again … Dorton lowered his ERA to 1.71 for a pitching staff which has a 1.79 ERA.

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