After dropping their first two games of the Pee Dee Invitational Pre-season Tournament being played in West Florence, Camden High head baseball coach Denny Beckley said it is time for his team to stop reading and believing what people are saying about them.
The Bulldogs, who came into the event ranked eighth in the state class AAA pre-season poll, opened with a 4-3 loss to former conference rival Darlington last Saturday. Two days later, host West Florence handed the Dogs a 3-1 setback.
"We’re definitely not where we need to be offensively," Beckley said following his team’s 0-2 start to the season. "I have not been please with our approach in the batter’s box. Our timing at the plate has been thrown off due to our lack of balance.
"We also have not bunted the ball well, at all. We are 0-for-4 in our sacrifice bunt attempts through two games."
In Saturday’s opener, Darlington jumped on CHS starter Ross Hough for three runs in the top of the third to take a 3-0 lead. Two of the Falcons’ run were on the unearned variety against the senior lefty.
Camden knotted things by scoring three times in the bottom of the fourth which started with Will Abbott reaching on a leadoff walk. He moved to third on a throwing error on Zach Boykin’s swinging bunt. After Boykin swiped second to put both runners into scoring position with one out, Carson Morgan plated the first run with a ground out to second base. Consecutive RBI singles off the bats of Tyler Jordan and Cole Irick evened things at three.
The game remained tied going into the top of the seventh when the Falcons got the leadoff man aboard on a walk before scoring the winning run one-out sacrifice fly.
Hough worked the first four frames, allowing six hits while walking two batters and allowing one earned run. He threw 64 pitches. Devin Beckley came on in relief in the fifth and worked an inning and a third before Brandon Dow was called on with one out in the sixth and worked his way out of a bases loaded with one out jam without giving up a run.
Camden pitchers allowed three leadoff walks and two of those runners scored as the trio of pitchers held DHS to just two hits. But the Falcons received seven free passes.
Offensively, Camden managed five hits but struck out nine times while leaving all seven of their runners left on base in scoring position.
Denny Beckley put the blame for the defeat on his shoulders after a pre-season which has been plagued by weather issues forcing the practice routine to be altered considerably.
"I didn’t do a good job of getting our team prepared," he said. "Our guys were behind when it came to live pitching and live hitting."
Beckley said he hoped the loss to an unranked Falcons’ squad would serve as a wake-up call for his veteran squad.
"We feel like we have a chance to be very good this year," he said. "I think that our guys may have underestimated Darlington, a bit.
"I think our guys may have been looking at some pre-season polls and listening what people were saying about our team a little more closely than they should have."
Camden scored its lone run against West Florence in the top of the first as Irick lined a one-out double, took third on a wild pitch before scoring on Hough’s ground ball out.
West Florence scored once in the bottom of the first to level things before ending the game with a walk-off two-out, two-strike home run in the seventh. Beckley shouldered the blame for the blast as he said he called for a fastball rather than an off-speed pitch.
Junior Will Abbott got the starting nod and the 6-foot-4 righty worked five innings. He fanned three and walked a trio of batters. Junior Drew David came on in the sixth and suffered the loss as the pair allowed just four hits to the Knights.
Offensively, Irick had a single and a double for two of the five CHS hits.
Beckley said he was pleased with Abbott’s performance.
"We were scheduled for a 5 p.m. start," said the CHS boss, "but one of the umpires was running late so we did not end up starting the game until 5:30 p.m. That might have affected Will’s having to warm-up again and, he struggled that first inning. After that, though, he was pretty good."
Tourney slate is changed:
Tourney slate is changed:Due to the rain and threat of inclement weather throughout the rest of the week, Camden’s Wednesday game with Marlboro County has been moved to Thursday with a starting time of either 6 p.m. or, 6:30 p.m., depending on when West Florence gets off the field for its practice that day.
Rather than shifting the site to Thursday and Friday for cross-pool play, Camden will play South Florence in Friday’s tournament finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at West Florence High School.