With his team not having played a game since a 14-1 win over Manning-Santee 12 days earlier, first-year Kershaw County American Legion head coach Tyler Pike was not overly concerned about where his team stood entering Tuesday’s League III game at Dalzell-Shaw.
Eight innings later, his players proved Pike’s feelings correct with a 13-3 victory over the host Jets in a game stopped after eight innings by the 10-run rule.
The win gave Post 17 a 2-1 league mark while Dalzell-Shaw fell to 0-7 in the 12-game League III campaign.
“I wasn’t too concerned about it,” Pike said of the long layoff between contests. “We have guys on this team who have been playing baseball for awhile and know what to do. What I was interested in seeing was how much rust we had to knock off.
“Before the game, our guys were pretty loose. I knew that if our pitchers threw strikes and if we played good defense that we’d be OK.”
KC did all its damage on just eight hits while taking advantage of a bevy of walks. Post 175 helped the visitors’ offense along by committing five errors.
The 17ers scored three times in the first inning and tacked on another run in the third to give starting pitcher Matthew Oxendine a 4-0 lead. Still, Pike said, his team’s offense had trouble adjusting to the Jets’ starting pitcher Christian Buford.
“We played kind of bad,” he later admitted. “Their pitcher was not throwing a lot of strikes and we struggled hitting the ball. They had a lefty who played at Claflin last season who throws about 75 (miles per hour.) He had an unorthodox delivery and was giving our guys fits at the plate.”
Leading, 4-2, the visitors tacked on a solo run in the fifth when Josh Hernandez sent a towering solo blast well beyond the fence in left for a leadoff home run. The shot came after a dare from teammate Brock Robinson for the UNC-Wilmington signee to see if he could hit a home run out of Thomas Sumter Academy’s field.
Hernandez finished the night going 2-for-2 with three walks while scoring four runs and stealing a pair of bases.
Oxendine was lifted after four innings in favor of Will Abbott, who went the final four frames. Oxendine, a Westwood High product, struck out seven batters while walking two and allowing an earned run in his first start of the season. Abbott, working in relief for the second time, allowed three hits while striking out six with two walks. He allowed one run.
“Oxendine pitched well,” Pike said. “His curveball was not really working and he was throwing his changeup low and in the dirt. He threw about 80 percent fastballs and that’s what we used to get their guys out.
“Will gave up three straight singles in the seventh before we went out to talk to him and he made some adjustments. After that, he was spotting his pitches and was throwing in the strike zone.”
The 17ers scored four runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings to put this game in the books.
Offensively, Cam Holley picked up where he left off at North Central as he went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. He also stole two bases and drove home a pair of runs.
With Christian Flick on vacation, Nick Butler got the start behind the plate and caught the first six innings before a finger injury led to Hernandez being called to catch Abbott for the final two frames of the evening.
Keeping POSTed: Pike said there is a chance that Hernandez, who caught at A.C. Flora, could hear his name called in the MLB Draft which kicked off with the first round selections on Thursday … Post 17 played minus the services of four players on Tuesday who were out of town on vacation or, in the case of Parker Gogan, the rising senior at Camden High School was attending Boys State at Anerson University ... Sumter leads League III with a 7-0 record heading into Thursday’s game with Orangeburg, which sits at 3-2. Post 17 is next at 2-1 followed by Manning-Santee (1-4) and Dalzell-Shaw (0-7) … Next week, the 17ers have a three-game set with Sumter opening on Monday at Riley Park before Tuesday’s game at American Legion Park in Camden. Thursday’s 7 p.m. series finale will be played in Sumter ... After having a long layoff and, due to Monday’s rain, the 17ers will have a busy slate to end the regular season with five games in a span of 10 days.