It used to be that a baseball game with Lower Richland meant the reserves would see as much, if not more, action on the field than would the starters.
Camden found out otherwise as the Bulldogs received all they wanted and then some before scoring four unanswered runs in the bottom of the sixth to take an 11-6 win over the visiting Diamond Hornets in a Tuesday game at American Legion Park.
The Dogs clinched a post-season berth with their fifth win in seven Region 4-AAA starts. The victory, combined with league-leading A.C. Flora’s one-run win over Chapin, gave Camden sole possession of second place with Chapin and Richland Northeast tied for third with 4-3 records.
As for his own team on Tuesday, Camden head coach Denny Beckley said LR has not been the pushover that the program has been in past seasons under third-year head coach Jacob Huter.
"Coach Huter has done a good job with them," Beckley said. "It was the same thing last year where, at the end of the year, they were playing a lot better. And now this year, they are playing better. They’re swinging the bats well, running the bases, playing small-ball and doing the little stuff that they, traditionally, had not done well in the past."
The Diamond Hornets’ calling card on Tuesday came in the form of scoring a pair first inning runs off Camden starter Austen Haney to jump to a quick 2-0 lead. "Haney was throwing strikes and they put together a few hits in the first inning. That kind of woke our guys up, a little bit," Beckley said.
Camden scored once in the bottom of the first as Cole Irick reached on an error to lead things off, stole second and came home on the first of three singles off the bat of Lawson Stokes. An inning later, the hosts tied things as Devin Beckley led off with a double before scoring on a Carson Morgan single. But Camden was unable to do any more damage in an inning in which it left the bases loaded.
The Bulldogs started to put some distance between themselves and LR by sending 10 batters to the plate in a five-run third inning which gave the hosts a 7-2 lead.
Stokes jump-started the frame with a leadoff single which was followed by a Ross Hough double to left. A walk to Devin Beckley loaded the bases. With one gone, Will Abbott walked to bring Stokes across while keeping the bases jammed for Carson Morgan whose three-run triple to the gap in left center made it a 6-2 Bulldog lead. Morgan scored the final run of the frame when Zach Boykin’s grounder was booted for an error.
"It’s good to see Carson coming around," Denny Beckley said of Morgan’s two-hit, four RBI night. "He’s been a little streaky this year but he had a great night with a single for an RBI and a three-run triple."
LR was not ready to roll over, though, as the guests scored one in the fourth and added three more in the fifth to close the gap to 7-6. The LR threat led to Denny Beckley to call on his son, Devin, earlier than planned. All the sophomore right-hander would do was to shut the Diamond Hornets down while recording eight strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief work to earn his second save of the season.
"Our plan was to finish up with Devin but we had to bring him in an out or two earlier than we normally would have and he finished off really well," Denny Beckley said.
"We had some poor defense and we didn’t pitch very well with one of our relievers and we let them back into the game. We kicked it around on defense."
The Dogs added four insurance runs in the sixth with Connor Morrow leading off with an infield single. After Connor Newman was hit by a pitch, a Stokes single drove in Morrow with the eighth run. Abbott brought home the final two runs of the game with a single to increase the lead to five runs heading into the top of the seventh.
"We finished strong, which is what counts the most," Denny Beckley said of his team’s sixth inning rally. "Hopefully, we can take care of business the rest of the way."
Camden banged out 10 hits in the win led by three from Stokes, who had a pair of RBI, and a pair from Morgan, including his three-run triple.
"Lawson’s been swinging the bat really well. He looks very comfortable at the plate and has great balance," Denny Beckley said. "Devin has been swinging it well lately and he had a double while Ross is starting to come around while Cole is Cole; he had another two stolen bases. Hopefully, we can keep getting that consistency from those guys. If that continues to happen, that will really help us."
The Bulldogs have a playoff spot secured with three conference games left starting with Thursday’s scheduled game at Dreher, a team which Camden had to come from behind to beat in their first meeting, 3-2.
Beckley said his charges need to pick up their collective game down the home stretch.
"In order for us to get where we want to go, we have to get better at doing the little things," he said. "We need to get better focus from our guys and we need to play better on defense with the small-ball aspect of the game.
"Offensively, we have to put it all together at the same time. We have a couple guys who are hot right now and a couple others who are not. The goal, of course, is to get everybody clicking at the right time."