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17ers put Lexington, series to bed early

KC advances to round 2 with 10-0 win in game 5

Posted: July 16, 2018 1:03 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

P-17 THIRD BASEMAN Noah Rabon holds up his glove for the umpire to see after Lexington’s David Jacobs was called out at third after trying to stretch a double into a triple in the second inning of Friday’s game at American Legion Park in Camden.

You will have to take Stephen Carmon’s word for it when the first-year Kershaw County American Legion head coach said he did not sleep a wink following his team’s 10-9 loss to Lexington last Thursday night in a game which tied their best-of-five state playoff series at two games apiece.

We trust Carmon slept like a baby one night later.

Taking their frustrations from Thursday out on visiting Lexington, KC made quick work of Post 7 on Friday with a 10-0 series-clinching victory in a game stopped in the bottom of the fifth by the 10-run rule.

By virtue of the win, Post 17 (20-5) moved into a second round playoff series with rival Sumter (18-9). The best-of-five pairing opened in Camden last night with game two on tap for this evening at Riley Park in Sumter. Game three will be played in Camden Wednesday with games four and five, if necessary, being contested in Camden and Sumter, respectively. All games have 7 p.m. start times.

Carmon freely admitted that he could not get Thursday’s 10-9 loss --- in a game in which KC lead 5-0 before Lexington scored nine times in the third with the hosts scoring the winning run to break a 9-all deadlock in the sixth --- out of his mind. The former P-17 standout could not wait to get back to American Legion Park Friday to see his squad try and make amends for the disappointing game four setback.

“I told the guys that I appreciated the effort and that I was so proud of them not only for winning tonight but, for the fashion we did,” Carmon said of his postgame talk with his players after Friday’s win. “We came out and did not make it close but, we also relieved stress from my life because I didn’t sleep at all last night. I kept replaying the game in my head, over and over, with things that I should have done but, I didn’t.

“I told the guys (Thursday) night after the game that that loss was on me but, we’ll forget about it and we’d come out and battle today and, we did.”

One move which Carmon did not make on Thursday was to bring Bradwin Salmond to the mound in relief of starter Hunter Coleman after the 17ers scored four times in the second to grab a 5-0 lead. What the KC boss did not want to do, however, was to come up high and dry in terms of pitching in case Post 7 came back and won game four to set up a one-game series showdown Friday at American Legion Park.

With pitching depth a concern for both sides, KC had an ace up its sleeve in sending Salmond to start Friday’s finale. All the 6-foot-2 righty did was to slam the door on the visitors by throwing five innings of scoreless baseball in which the guests managed just four hits while the Spartanburg Methodist college signee fanned one in an impressive 69-pitch outing which was his first win of the season in as many decisions. He also kept his ERA ledger clean at 0.00 after appearing in six games and working 17 innings.

“I was a little mad at myself for not bringing him in last night when we got the lead and were up 5-0 but, I didn’t want to end up losing that game (Thursday) night and not have Bradwin tonight,” Carmon said as to his thinking in lining up his pitching staff for what amounted to a one-game series on Friday.

After working a clean top of the first, Salmond got the 17ers’ off and running at the plate in sending a leadoff  single to right field off Lexington starter Austin Muse, who was making his third appearance of the series and his first start.

Salmond’s base hit touched off a five-run first inning avalanche as Todd Mattox was hit by a Muse pitch. A double-steal put both runners in scoring position for Jake Laffin, who sent a two-run single the opposite way into right field. With one gone and Laffin still on first, Chase Galloway sent a single into left field which led to Zac Branham’s run-scoring single to left on which an error allowed Galloway to score the fourth run while Branham took second base. Branham made it 5-0 when he scored on a Josh Boone single.

When the dust finally cleared, the hosts had sent 10 men to the plate, scored five runs on six hits while giving Salmond more than enough run support. 

“It was big for our guys to come out, score early and then, keep scoring and putting up zeroes (on defense),” Carmon said of his team’s second quick start in as many nights. “That’s what helped us tonight. Holding them to zero runs is tough to do.”

Salmond was backed by a defense which did not commit an error in the field while turning in double plays in the second and fourth frames.

The 17ers scored twice in the second which opened with a Mattox double to left that closed the book on Muse in favor of Jac Crouch, who retired the first two batters he faced before Galloway got aboard on an error which allowed Mattox to score the sixth run. Galloway upped the ante to seven runs when he came in on a Noah Rabon ground ball to second which went through to right field for an error.

Crouch gave up solo runs in each of the next three innings.

In the third, Boone was hit by a pitch to open things. He scored the eighth run by coming in from second base on Laffin’s one-out single to right; his third RBI of the game. An inning later, Jaiden Garner turned his being hit by a pitch into a run when he scored on a Mattox single to deep shortstop.

The evening came to an early close in the home half of the fifth. Needing a run to invoke the 10-run rule, Galloway got aboard with a one-out walk before Chris Rivers was inserted as a pinch-runner for the KC catcher. Rivers scored the 10th run from second base as he came around on Rabon’s walk-of single to left.

The 17ers collected 13 hits on Friday with Rabon going 3-for-4 while driving in two runs. The top three batters in the order --- Salmond, Mattox and Laffin --- had two hits apiece with Laffin driving in three runs. Branham completed the list of batters with multi-hit nights as he had two hits which brought a pair of runs across.

Carmon said his team took the frustration of Thursday’s loss out before the home crowd on Friday. Few, if any, of the 17ers’ hits were cheapies. He also tipped his hat to his opponent who simply ran out of gas and, pitching, on Friday.

“Lexington is a great team. They never quit and they have a bunch of guys who can hit the ball all over the ball park, as we saw last night. Holding them without a run is tough to do,” Carmon said of Post 7 which finished fourth behind KC in League III play. “We came out there yesterday, put up five quick runs and it did not even faze them.”

What was different on Friday was the 17ers’ being relentless in all facets of the game which is something they will need against a red-hot Sumter squad this week.

“I’d been preaching to the guys all day and, last night, to come out from the first pitch to the last pitch with that same intensity and that same energy that we’ve had spurts of, here and there. If we do that, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” Carmon said.

“We have a great team. We have a great group of guys and when they fully invest themselves, we’re tough to beat.”

Keeping POSTed: Carmon gave the 17ers Saturday off before reconvening Sunday for a quick practice … KC stuck out twice on Friday after not having gone down on strikes in either games three or, four … In a second inning in which a double play ball negated the first two batters Friday, Lexington’s David Jacobs doubled to right field and was called out at third base while trying to stretch the hit into a triple. Jacobs seemed to slide around the tag being applied by KC third baseman Noah Rabon who was later asked if he tagged Jacobs on the play. He smiled and shook his head. “No,” he said. “I just raised my glove up (after the play) and prayed (for an out call.)” Rabon’s prayer was answered as Jacobs was called out on the play … Sumter came into this week’s series, which will decide one of four spots in the state tournament, on a four-game win streak. The P15s swept Hartsville in three games after having closed regular season play with a 4-2 win over defending state champion Florence on July 6 … This is the first postseason series between the two sides since Sumter defeated Post 17 in the second round of the 1988 state playoffs … The entire Post 17 vs. Sumter series will be broadcast live over Sumter radio stations 93.3 and 92.3 FM with Kevin Ireland and Lee Glaze calling the action. To listen to the games on the Internet, log onto cbssumter.com/wwhm933oldskool/ and click on the Listen Live icon ... With his two hits on Friday, Salmond raised his batting average to .402 which trails only Laffin’s team-best .431 mark … Laffin’s three-RBI night gave him a team-leading 16 while Salmond and Galloway are next with 13 and 11, respectively … When asked the pitching rotation for the Sumter series, Carmon said he and pitching coach Ross Hough would discuss that over the weekend while noting after game one, the next game starter will be decided on how things go in terms of the outcome of the game and if bullpen help was needed. All signs pointed to a Monday night matchup between Zac Branham (2-2, 1.41 ERA) going against Sumter ace and The Citadel signee Lathan Todd. The pair hooked up at Riley Park on June 13 with the guest coming away with a 2-1 victory. One night later in Camden, the 17ers swept the two-game series with a 6-5 victory … This is the fifth straight summer in which KC has advanced to, at least, the second round of the state playoffs. The string began in 2014 under head coach Craig Smith when the locals advanced into and finished tied for third in the state tournament played at Riley Park in Sumter. A year later, head coach Will Dorton guided the 17ers into round two. In 2016, first-year KC head coach Tyler Pike and the 17ers played their way to a second-place finish in the state tournament in Sumter before the Pike-led 2017 squad lost to Chapin-Newberry in round 2. Carmon becomes the fourth different head coach in five seasons to lead KC into second round play ... Also this week, the KC Post 17 Junior American Legion team, which won its opening round series with Darlington will take on the Sumter P15 juniors in a best-of-three series which began Monday at Riley Park and continues tonight at 7 p.m. at American Legion Park in Camden. Game three, if needed, will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

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