If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Lugoff-Elgin and Camden baseball teams should have been blushing.
Three weeks after L-E jumped to an early lead and held its breath at the end before taking a 4-3 win over the Bulldogs, Randy Stokes’ troops followed the same script on Wednesday.
In the final round of pool play in the Kershaw-Richland Wooden Bat Spring Break Tournament, the Demons got to Will Abbott for three first inning runs and held on for their second 4-3 win over the tourney hosts in as many outings this season.
The Demon (8-6) used small-ball to take a lead which they would never surrender by using a pair of bunts to ignite their three-run opening salvo.
Stokes said the combination of wooden bats and facing the hard-throwing CHS right-hander led to the decision to try and win this game by old school methods.
“With these wood bats,” Stokes said, “you have to do that. We didn’t have the opportunity to do it late in the game but we laid down two pretty good drag bunts in the first inning.”
The loss was left Camden with a 10-5 record heading into Thursday’s scheduled third place game against Westwood. The Dogs had golden scoring chances in the third and sixth frames and scored just one run while leaving two runners hanging to end each threat. In the seventh, CHS had the tying run on third only for reliever Brock Robinson to get Christian Flick to line out to Chase Roberts in right field to end the game.
“They did a great job of bunting the ball in great spots that were difficult plays for us,” said CHS head coach Denny Beckley. “We had a couple miscommunications things but I don’t know whether or not it would have affected anything.”
The Demons got to Abbott (3-3) for three runs in a first in which the guests put their first four batters aboard starting with Robinson who lined a leadoff single to left. Zack Branham followed with a drag bunt between the mound and first base on which Camden was unable to make a play. Bradwin Salmond followed and laid down a dandy bunt between the plate and first base to load the bases with no outs for cleanup hitter Chase Roberts.
Roberts sent an off-speed pitch into center field to drive in Robinson with the game’s first run. Camden looked to possibly have stemmed the tied when Chase Galloway’s grounder forced Roberts at second while Branham came in from third to make it 2-0. But an errant throw to first sent Salmond scurrying home with the third run.
The hosts avoided further damage when Flick gunned down courtesy runner Deontae Hudson trying to steal second base before Abbott got out of the sitiation with an inning-ending strikeout.
“We put down two pretty good bunts with Zack and Bradwin,” Stokes said. “We were going to bunt with Chase Roberts but we decided to give him the chance to swing the bat and he came up big. Then, we hit a hard grounder that they didn’t play well. If they turn that double play, it might change the whole outcome of the game.”
“The double play ball really hurt us when we didn’t turn it and they scored two runs,” said Beckley of the missed chance to limit the damage.
While the Demons were able to jump on CHS early for the second straight time, L-E starter Hunter Coleman had the Bullog batters guessing. The sophomore righty sidewinder worked two perfect innings before walking Connor Newman to open the home half of the third. After two unsuccessful bunt attempts, Campbell Jordan lined a single to right. A Lindsay Pierce sacrifice bunt put runners in scoring position with one out with the top of the order coming to bat.
Nick Butler lined an RBI single to center with Campbell being held up at third on the play. Beckley later said he thought about attempting a suicide squeeze to get Jordan across but decided to let his top of the lineup batters swing the bat. Instead, Coleman came up big and posted back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the jam with a 3-1 lead intact.
L-E got to Abbott for a run in the fourth. Galloway’s one-out, opposite field single to right got things going. Josh Ayer then hit a fly pop which landed on the dirt behind first baseman William Cobb who was holding Hudson, who advanced to third on the single, on the play. Jay Lynch then beat out an infield single which drove Hudson home with the fourth run.
Camden reached Coleman for another run in the fourth which was kicked off by Cobb lining a double along the left field line. He took third on the play when the ball was bobbled. Cobb would cut the lead in half at 4-2, coming home on a Connor Morrow ground out.
After allowing three first inning runs on four hits, Abbott settled down. In the next six innings, he would give up one run on four hits. He finished the night yielding eight singles --- half of those being of the bunt or infield variety --- while fanning seven while not walking a batter.
“I noticed in the fourth and fifth inning how much more Will was thinking instead of worrying about what happened before,” Beckley said of Abbott’s performance after a bumpy start. “I thought he did a great job of varying his looks when they got a runner on and were looking to steal second. That showed a tremendous amount of maturity in that situation because he was so frustrated with what happened in the first inning with those hits off their fists and bunts.
“I think there is a silver lining to this cloud as to how Will responded in the latter innings of this game.”
Coleman, though, was equal to the task presented by The Citadel signee. Through five frames, he gave up three hits. He would start the sixth by giving up a leadoff double to left off the bat of Flick before Devin Beckley reached on a fielders’ choice which put runners on the corners with no outs while closing the book on Coleman, who fanned five batters in his stint, in favor of Brock Robinson.
“The first thing I want to say about Hunter Coleman,” Stokes said, “is that he is one of the most quality kids that I’ve ever coached. He does everything we’ve asked him to do and he waits his time. This couldn’t have happened to a better kid. I’m at a loss for words as to how proud I am of Hunter and the job that he did tonight.”
Robinson was able to get out of the mess he inherited with two infield pop flies and a ground ball out as CHS left Flick and Devin Beckley where they were.
Just as was the case in the game at Optimist Field on March 9, Camden threatened in the seventh.
Pinch-hitter Parker Gogan got on thanks to a leadoff error. Pinch-hitter Brandon Dow then walked on five pitches before Pierce laid down another successful bunt to push both runners into scoring position. Butler’s hard-hit ground out to Ayer at first brought in Gogan but Robinson got Flick to hit a liner which landed softly in the glove of Roberts in right to end the night.
After having used a three-run first and surviving a scare in Monday’s 4-1 win over North Central before Tuesday’s one-sided 8-0 win over Ridge View in which NC junior Elliott Campbell threw a no-hitter, Stokes said things may be starting to even up for his team which has had more than its share of tough, one-run losses.
“We knew that Abbott was going to be good and he was, all night. We just got some pretty good swings off him,” he said. “If you had told me that we would score four runs off him tonight, I probably would have doubted you. I was looking for a 2-1 game or, something like that. We knew he wasn’t going to give up a lot of runs.
“We don’t do nothing easy. A lot of our games have come down to the last out. We’ve lost and we’ve won games late. I told our kids during the year that we’re not a team that is going to blow people out. We have to hang around and give ourselves a chance to win at the end; that’s what we did tonight.”
Tourney notebook: Camden used a complete game two-hitter from senior Brandon Dow on Tuesday in an 8-0 win over North Central.
Dow had a pair of singles to pace the Bulldogs’ nine-hit attack.
That game was followed by Campbell’s no-hitter in the 8-0 L-E win over Ridge View.
On Wednesday, North Central rebounded from a 6-0 deficit against Ridge View by scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth, two in the fifth and pushing across the winning run in the seventh to come away with a 7-6 win.
Cam Holley led off the sixth with a single to left and moved to third when Austin Bowers followed with a double to right center. After Tyler Bowers drew an intentinal walk to load the bases, Chase Stephens sent a sacrifice fly to deep left to plate Holley with the winning run.
The Knights out-hit RV, 9-8. Holley and Austin Bowers had two hits each for Robbie Cash’s troops who also received three RBI from Stephens.
Stephen Barrett came on in relief in the sixth and went the final two frames to earn the mound win.
With Ridge View and Irmo, from the Richland County portion of the eight-team tournament, having run out of pitching, Thursday’s cross-bracket games were reduced to three games. Those contests started early due to the reduced field to the threat of inclement weather.