Three-game weeks are not supposed to be this taxing.
Having played a four-hour, 13-inning game in Orangeburg on Monday with a hard-fought battle the next with that same Orangeburg outfit the following night, the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team was hoping for a breather when a Dalzell-Shaw squad came to American Legion Park --- winless in 11 League III games and 1-17 overall --- on Friday night.
Post17 led, 9-0, after five frames and the hosts looked to be on the cusp of closing the Jets out in seven innings. It would be Dalzell-Shaw’s reserves, however, who played a large role in a three-run eighth inning and helped to extend the game to nine frames before KC was able to come away with the 12-3 victory.
The win gave the locals a 6-4 record in League III play heading into tonight’s pairing in Orangeburg. The 17ers will wrap up league play at home on Thursday against Manning-Santee. Both KC opponents have 5-6 records and the battle for second place --- and first round home field advantage in the state playoffs --- in the circuit will be on the line this week.
As for Friday’s contest, on a week which put a dent into an already thin pitching staff, P-17 head coach Tyler Pike looked to T.J. White to give his team a quality start. The right-hander out of Westwood High School did just that as he worked five innings of shutout ball, scattering six hits and striking out four batters while not issuing a walk before handing the ball over to Devin Beckley to start the sixth.
Pike was hoping to have Ross Hough back in the fold to throw on Friday but the lefty was still on vacation. White, who was probably going to be given the start regardless, gave Pike exactly what the first-year KC boss was looking for on the mound.
“T.J. is a strike-thrower. That’s one thing I found out when I coached him when he was an eighth-grader at Westwood,” Pike said. “He’s always been a tough kid, a scrappy kid who throws strikes and doesn’t walk many, which is huge.”
White got into a bit of trouble coming out of the gate as the Jets put three of their first four batters on base with singles. But White got Christian Buford to hit a one-out grounder to William Cobb at first base who stepped on the bag and threw a strike to shortstop Bradwin Salmond who applied the tag on a sliding Colin Kremer to complete the inning-ending double play.
The hosts gave White a five-run cushion after getting to Kremer, the Jets’ starter, for five runs in a bottom of the second which opened with Cobb being hit by a pitch. After taking second on a wild pitch, Cobb advanced to third on Christian Flick’s bunt single on which the designated hitter never slowed down in taking second on the play. Nick Stokes then loaded the bases with no outs as he took a Kremer offering in the back.
Beckley, who went 4-for-4 at the plate from the nine hole in the order, drove Cobb in with a single to left. With one gone and the bags still juiced, Brock Robinson sent a sacrifice fly to center field which plated Flick with the second run.
The big blow of the inning came off the bat of Nick Butler who crushed a two-run triple which bounced off the fence in deep left center. Butler made it 5-0 when Salmond sent an RBI single to center.
KC tacked on two more runs in the third and fifth frames and were poised to close things out in seven innings via the 10-run rule.
In the third, Flick lined a one-out single to left, took second and third on wild pitches and scored on Beckley’s two-out single to left field.
Beckley made it 7-0 when he came in from second on Robinson’s run-scoring single to left.
Two frames later, White drew a leadoff walk before John Bailey reached on an error. Beckley drove White home with a sacrifice fly to left while Bailey scored from first on Robinson’s triple to the gap in right center to make it 9-0.
The fifth frame closed the book on Kremer’s night. The right-hander allowed nine runs on as many hits while fanning one batter. Jesse Lucas came on to start the sixth and the thin righty worked scoreless sixth and seventh innings.
The Jets scored three runs in the eighth off Beckley to cut the deficit to 9-3 and extend the game to the full nine innings.
Dalzell-Shaw head coach Gene Durant said he like the fact that his team kept plugging away and ended a tough season by going down fighting.
“They could have folded the tents early after we got behind,” Durant said. “I made a lot of substitutions and played a lot of kids who hadn’t played much this year and darn, they came through and put three runs in the board.
It was the Jets’ bench which played a large role in cutting the KC advantage to six runs by scoring three runs in a top of the eighth which opened with a Kremer single to shallow right. Beckley then walked pinch-hitter Malcolm Brown before hitting another pinch-hitter, Alan Childers, in the back with a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Brandon Chandler followed by sending an RBI single to right. A wild pitch plated Brown while advancing Childers to third. Childers made it 9-3 when he scored on a Lucas grounder which was the first out of the inning. Beckley used a strikeout while catcher Will Abbott gunned down Chandler trying to take third base on a ball in the dirt for the final out of the inning.
KC answered by scoring three times in the bottom half of the eighth off Lucas to push the lead back to nine runs.
The hosts used a one-out walk to Abbott followed by consecutive singles from Cobb and White, the latter which drove Abbott home from second. A ground out by Bailey scored Cobb to make it 11-3 while a Beckley single to left allowed White to cross the plate with the 12th run.
“Our guys put the bat on the ball tonight,” said Pike whose team collected 14 hits in winning their fourth straight game after having been swept last week by Sumter. “We’re still popping the ball up. We have to stay on top of the ball. Our guys went out there, played hard and we came away with the win.”
Robinson came on in the ninth and worked a perfect frame to close out the contest.
Even after a tough campaign, Durant was able to flash a smile as he talked about his team which only lost one player --- who was moving back to Arizona --- throughout the season.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of them. They worked hard but they have a lot more to learn ... they’re young,” Durant said of his squad.
“It’s not pleasant for any coach to go out with just one win for the year but when the guys give it all they’ve of, you can’t ask for anything more.”
As for Post 17, the hosts banged out 15 hits on Friday led by Beckley’s big night which included his driving in three runs. Robinson went 3-for4 with a triple and three RBI while Butler and Flick had two-hit nights with Butler plating a pair of runs with his booming triple.
Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Sumter, Pike was breathing a little easier after a 3-0 week with opened with a 7-6 marathon win over Orangeburg on Monday and a 10-6 win over Orangeburg on Tuesday night. KC can lock down second place behind Sumter with a win in either of its final two games of the regular season.
“We needed a week like this to try and clinch a playoff spot,” he said. “We’re battling for second place with Orangeburg and Manning so we have to go out and take care of business (this) week.”
Keeping POSTed: With two games left to be played in the final week of the League III season, Post 17 sits alone in second place behind league champion Sumter (12-0) with a 6-4 record. Orangeburg and Manning-Santee are tied for third with identical 5-6 records with Dalzell-Shaw last at 0-12. The 17ers have taken each of their first two games with Orangeburg while splitting a pair with Manning-Santee to open the season ... According to one source, the best-of-five first round of the state playoffs is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, July 5 with the best-of-five second round to be played beginning Monday, July 11. Pairings for the first round had not been decided on by state American Legion officials as of press time on Monday ... For the second consecutive Friday, Will Abbott donned the catcher’s gear for the 17ers. The Camden High grad and The Citadel-bound pitcher caught all nine innings on Friday as Flick was given the night off on defense and had two at-bats as the team’s designated hitter … In addition to his pitching, White had a gem of a defensive play at third base as he took a single away from Lance Ragan by diving to his left to snag the grounder before throwing a strike to first for the first out of the seventh inning.