There were three games being watched simultaneously Thursday night at Lugoff-Elgin’s Optimist Field, including the live one taking place between the hosts Demons and non-league foe Chapin. The latter was the least important of the three.
Meanwhile, in Winnsboro, Camden was able to add a last-minute game to its regular season slate against a Region 4-AAA foe which did not count toward the conference standings.
Confused? Let’s help sort things out for you. We’ll start with L-E.
In order for the Demons to make the 5A state playoffs, they needed one of two things to happen on Thursday. One was for a one-win Irmo squad to defeat Sumter. The second was for Region 4-5A champion Blythewood to sweep visiting Spring Valley in that evening’s doubleheader.
Through the magic of the Gamechcanger app and other social media outlets, those inside and outside the L-E dugout were able to follow both the Irmo vs. Sumter and Blythewood vs. Spring Valley contests.
The most interested of all parties was Demon boss Randy Stokes who admitted that he has his cell phone tuned into the Irmo-Sumter game, which ended first with Sumter coming away with the win which put the Demons into the postseason. At the same time L-E assistant coach Will Reeves was keeping tabs on Blythewood on his phone. When BHS took two from SV, it assured L-E of a second place finish in conference play and a first round state playoff home game on Tuesday, April 23.
“Technology has really changed,” Stokes said with a laugh on Friday morning. “Our kids knew what was going on. We had family members coming to the fence and telling our kids, ‘We’re in. We’re in.’ People at our game were watching scores come in from games other than ours.”
As for the Demons’ Senior Night contest, they dropped a 5-2 decision to the defending 4A state champions as the two sides split the two-game series.
Camden, was still riding the emotional wave of Wednesday’s 8-7 walk-off win over Hartsville when head coach Denny Beckley received a call from Fairfield Central head coach Scottie Dean Thursday morning. The Griffins had a non-region game slated for that night in which their opponent needed to play a conference game which had playoff implications. Dean, a former coach at Camden, called his friend to see if the Dogs might be interested in traveling to Winnsboro to play what soccer people call a “friendly” since Camden had already swept the season series with its 4-AAA rival
The end result was the Bulldogs hiking their win streak to seven with a 12-2 victory.
Chapin gained a split with the Demons, who won in Chapin, 7-3, last Wednesday thanks in large part to a strong start from Heath Erwin. In his first varsity start, the junior righty went the first five frames, scattering eight hits while fanning two batters while earning the praise of his head coach.
“We gave Heath the opportunity on Wednesday because he was the only pitcher on our staff who hadn’t started a game this season. He did an exceptionally good job,” Stokes said. “Heath has one of the better breaking balls on our staff and he used it effectively. He got a lot of outs with that pitch.”
L-E used a four-run top of the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. The visitors trailed, 2-0, heading into a top of the sixth in which they pushed across three runs. Sawyer Reeves opened the inning with a single to center and moved to third on a J.C. LeGrand double. Reeves scored Will Morris’ single to left. LeGrand scored the second run on Jake Laffin’s fielders’ choice before Morris gave the guests a 3-2 advantage when he came in on a wild pitch.
Reeves got things started in the seventh with a two-out single to center. LeGrand followed with a single to right to put runners on first and second for Morris, who sent a two-run double to right field to make it a 5-3 L-E lead. Laffin kept things going with a walk with a wild pitch advancing both he and Morris into scoring position for Walker Branham whose two-run single made it 7-3.
Stokes said his offense made changes the second and third times through against Cade.
“Our first at-bats were not great. We made better adjustments the second time through the order,” Stokes said. “One thing we learned is that they don’t give you two fastballs in a row. Our kids made good adjustments with that. We also did a good job of laying off ‘pitcher’s pitches’ that were out of the strike zone.”
One night later, the Eagles returned the favor at Optimist Field with the three-run win.
L-E tied things at 1-1 with a run in the third as LeGrand was hit by a pitch and later scored on an error. The hosts tailed, 3-2, after pushing across another run in the first as Brandon Lankford’s sacrifice fly plated Witt Branham, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Demons had other scoring chances in the setback but had a runner thrown out at third, one caught trying to score from third on a passed ball third strike and one who was doubled up in the third frame.
“It was the most awful base running game we have ever had. We hit the ball well enough, we pitched well enough and we hit well enough, but our base running killed us,” Stokes said.
In other news, Stokes named a starter for the Demons’ state tourney opener against the third-place finisher out of Region 3.
“Walker Branham will be pitching game one of the playoffs for us. He will not be pitching in (this week’s Kershaw-Richland) spring break tournament. We have a lot of people who we need to get some work (this week.)”
One night after Brady White’s walk-off RBI single with two gone in the bottom of the seventh to give Camden an 8-7 win over Hartsville, the Dogs were back at it again.
In the one-run win over the Red Foxes on Wednesday, Camden’s Jake Tanner led off the final frame with a single, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. With two gone and the bases loaded, White sent a single to center to end the non-region contest.
It was a fitting ending for White, a senior, to come through with the big hit on Senior Night said Camden head coach Denny Beckley.
“It was a huge win for our team against a quality opponent that is ranked in the top 10 in class 4A,” he said.
“It means a lot to our community. It’s a rival and when you mix in a walk-off hit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, it was a dramatic win. In the dugout, some of our kids were saying that it felt like a playoff game. These are the games you want to be playing at this time of the year.
“We talk about it all the time that our players believe in what we are doing and they believe that we will come through in those type situations.”
Sam Ferguson picked up his fourth win in five decisions with 3.1 innings of one-hit relief work after coming on for starter Holden Bunch. “Sam has been our most consistent pitcher this year and he pitched well in a tough situation,” Beckley said.
After Hartsville scored five times in the third through fifth frames to go on top, 6-4, Camden scored three in the fifth to go up, 7-6. Base hits from McKenzie Barrineau and Bennett Caldwell and a Tyler Maxwell walked loaded the bases with no outs. Abbott’s double drove in two while Cook’s run-scoring single drove in Maxwell with the seventh run.
The guests tied things with one in the sixth before White’s heroics in the seventh.
“As our guys came back into the dugout after the top of the seventh, I asked them who was going to get that big hit for us,” Beckley said. “We had four or five guys say that they were. It was the kind of pressure situation that our guys believe they are going to come through for us in.
“One of the strengths for our teams this year is that when we play someone, they know they are going to have to get all 21 outs” Beckley said. “We’ve had several late-game comebacks this season; our kids will fight ‘til the end. That mentality has helped us a lot. Brady’s hit helped us believe that we can do that.”
Abbott and Caldwell had two hits each for Camden which had 12 while White had three RBI.
Against FC, in a less tense setting, the Bulldogs used a six-run second to go on top, 8-0, while winning their seventh game in a row.
In the first inning, Tanner singled in a run to make it 1-0 before Jacob Jordan scored on a passed ball. An inning later, Bryce Jeffcoat singled in the third run of the game in a frame in which Camden scored on a bases loaded walk, two runs on errors, one on a wild pitch and another on a dropped third strike.
The guests added a solo run in the first before adding three more runs in the top of the seventh to put this one well out of reach.
Tate Abbott went the distance on the mound as he fired a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and a walk.
“We wanted to do two things in this game,” Beckley said. “We wanted to give Tate the opportunity to get some innings in and have some success. He was our ace last year and we wanted to get him back on track. Second, we wanted to give everybody a chance to get in some innings. It was important to keep our momentum going but we were able to do it in a game where we were not so locked in and intense. Second, everybody got at least two at-bats and, for a coach, that was good for your team.”
Camden scored its 12 runs on just eight hits while making the most of four walks and a trio of Fairfield Central errors to come away with the one-sided win. Jordan had a two-hit night for the winners.
Beckley said he was in the midst of putting his team’s pitching rotation together for this week’s tournament as well as the Bulldogs’ AAA state tourney opener when the Region 4-AAA runners -up host the third place finisher from Region 1 on Tuesday, April 23 at American Legion Park.
“We are going to try and get innings and work in for all our pitchers (this) week,” Beckley said. “Sam (Ferguson) will start game one of the playoffs and will pitch on Wednesday (against Lugoff-Elgin). We will probably start Zane Cook on Tuesday and Tate (Abbott) on Thursday.”