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Roberts outduels Beckley in a pitching classic

Demons sweep Camden with 1-0 victory

Posted: April 13, 2017 4:42 p.m.
Updated: April 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E’S CHASE ROBERTS FIRES a pitch to the plate in his 1-0 shutout victory over Camden in Wednesday’s third round of the Camden-Richland Wooden Bat Tournament.

If the same opportunity presented itself, again, it was decision which Denny Beckley would make each and every time.

For Randy Stokes, all he and his team needed was one try.

On a Wednesday evening in which Lugoff-Elgin pitcher Chase Roberts and his Camden counterpart, Devin Beckley, reduced their teammates to co-starring roles, L-E scored an unearned run in the top of the sixth in the manner which host Camden could not five innings earlier.

The end result was the visiting Demons leaving American Legion Park with a 1-0 win over the Bulldogs to cap a 3-0 run in the Kershaw County portion of the Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Tournament which concluded Thursday in Columbia.

Three and 0 also represented the way things shook out between the cross-river rivals. Randy Stokes and company swept their three-game series with Denny Beckley’s troops which could not muster a run in any of those meetings. L-E won the first two meetings by identical 5-0 scores. Both those games, however, were mere cracker and Cheez-Whiz appetizers for the lobster dinners served up by both Roberts and Beckley.

Roberts, a junior lefty who is committed to Clemson, went seven innings allowing two hits --- both coming in the first inning ---, striking out nine while issuing a walk in just his third mound start of the season. He threw 103 pitches. Beckley, who has signed with The Citadel, was equally impressive as the right-hander scattered four hits ---two of the infield variety --- while striking out eight and walking a pair in a 106-pitch outing.

In the end, however, this game boiled down to a pair of plays at the plate. The Demons converted theirs in the first after Camden was foiled by a one-hop strike thrown from Jay Lynch in left field to L-E catcher Chase Galloway who applied the tag on a sliding Devin Beckley.

Five frames later, L-E base runner J.C. Legrand appeared to have been beaten to the plate on a strike thrown from CHS left fielder Campbell Jordan only to have the ball come out of the catcher’s glove while trying to make the swipe tag at home.

That, in a nut shell, was your ball game.

“We struggled,” said L-E head coach Randy Stokes following his team’s eight consecutive win. “It came down to us throwing a guy out at the plate and them not throwing a guy out at the plate. That’s pretty much what the game boiled down to.”

Camden head coach Denny Beckley said you could almost feel that one mistake, one run, might have been enough to get the win when you had two quality pitchers throwing blanks.

“Whenever you have two pitchers dueling it out like you did tonight,” he said, “two or three plays or, even one or two sometimes, will make all the difference in a game. It puts a microscope on every play.

“They just cashed in on theirs and we didn’t. Hat off to (Roberts), he threw an unbelievable game. We just didn’t come through when we had to. This game is difficult and when you have a guy throwing that well, you only have so many chances.”

Each team had scoring chances go by the board in the opening frame.

In the top of the first, Noah Rabon singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Bradwin Salmond reached on an error to put runners on the corners with one gone. Salmond was picked off for the second out while Beckley left Rabon at third by getting Roberts to sky out to first baseman William Cobb for the third out.

Roberts opened his stint by striking out the first two batters he faced before Devin Beckley lined a single through the box before stealing second. Cobb then ripped a single to a charging Lynch in left. The junior sent a low, one-hopper to Galloway who dropped the tag on a sliding Beckley who was waved in by his father and third base coach Denny Beckley.

The elder Beckley later said it was a decision he would have made a million times over.

“That was an unbelievable play by Lynch,” said the Bulldog boss. “I’ll be honest with you, I was very concerned when the ball came off the bat but when Devin rounded third, I thought that he was going to be OK. Lynch made a low throw that skipped just perfectly; it was an absolutely beautiful play.”

Following the early threats, each pitcher settled down and all but put things on cruise control. For Roberts, after the play at the plate in the first, he proceeded to face the minimum 15 batters over the next five frames. During that time, he struck out seven batters with the only base runner he allowed coming on a drop of a third strike to open the fifth.

Devin Beckley encountered 13 batters in innings two through five, recording four strikeouts and allowing a walk over that span. He faced 14 batters through that stretch without giving up a hit until the top of the sixth as Legrand beat out a ground ball to shortstop. The sophomore took second when the pickoff throw from home went to first base as Legrand bolted for and slid safely into second.

A failed sacrifice bunt and a strikeout led to Salmond’s coming to the plate with two outs. The L-E delivered a single to left against his Post 17 American Legion teammate. Jordan measured his steps in coming up with the liner and sent a rope home only for Legrand to slide safely across with the run when the ball popped out of the catcher’s mitt.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth followed by Beckley pitching to just three batters in the seventh, the Dogs had one last threat left in them.

With one out, Devin Beckley worked his way for a walk. After taking second on a passed ball, he was lifted for pinch-runner Ryland Ayers. Cobb followed by sending a line drive to Salmond in center. The 6-2 junior, at first, took a step in and slipped only to gather himself, get back on his feet and haul in the ball which raise yells from fans of both teams. Ayers was able to get back before the throw to second only to be left hanging there as Roberts completed his portion of the gem with a game-ending ground ball to Josh Ayers at first.

Stokes admitted that when hearing the crack of the bat and seeing Salmond bobble on the slick grass, he thought this game may be headed into extra innings or, worse.

“I just told our kids to not let a ball get over their heads; give up a single but don’t give up a double or triple,” he said of his instructions to his outfielders going into the bottom of the seventh. “When that ball was hit, I saw him slip and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s over his head.’ But he made a good play on it and Cobb made a good swing on it.”

From his post in the third base coach’s box, Denny Beckley thought Cobb had burned Salmond and the game would have been knotted at one.

“They play shallow and they should with the wooden bats,” he said of the placement of the Demon outfielders. “At first, when it came off the bat, I was telling Ryland to go (to third base.) He started up and then I yelled, ‘Back. Back.’

“Bradwin’s just such a great athlete though and made that play. It’s a game of inches sometimes.”

For Stokes, a former pitcher at Camden High before going on to a Hall of Fame career at Coastal Carolina and then, enjoying a minor league stint in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, this was gem of a pitching performance which he would have paid to have taken in from the bleachers.

“Devin was very good,” Stokes said of Beckley. “When I saw him after the game I told him that was the best I had ever seen him pitch. He was really good and our kids were saying to me, ‘Gosh coach, he’s really good.’”

As for his own pitcher, Stokes said Roberts was up to the task on a night in which neither pitcher deserved to have the “L” placed alongside their name.

“Chase was spotting his fastball, which was in the upper 80s, and he pitched in,” he said. “He didn’t throw a lot of breaking balls which, he didn’t need to. He may have to show it every now and then, but he didn’t need to throw it a lot. We thought that tonight, he could throw the ball inside against these guys and have some success.”

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