If the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team was to extend its best-of-five second round series with Chapin-Newberry, it had to be clicking on all cylinders on Wednesday night at Newberry College’s Smith Road Field.
Instead, Post 17 showed up with a worn-down pitching staff and beat-up bodies which led to C-N rallying from a 7-2 deficit to complete a three-game sweep with a 13-9 win. With the four-run victory, the defending American Legion World Series champions punched their ticket into the South Carolina State Tournament in Sumter which opens on Saturday, July 23.
In spite of the setback, Post 17 (11-8) may have another chance to make its second state tournament appearance in three years should Sumter be able to win its series with Murrells Inlet.
By virtue of hosting the eight-team state event, Post 15 gets a free pass into the tournament. By winning its second round series, however, Sumter opens the door for a fourth team to come from the Lower State. Should that happen, the losers of the three second round series will play in a mini-tournament with the survivor heading to Riley Park.
Due to the other two series still being contested, there is no definitive date set for the play-in contests. All KC head coach Tyler Pike knows is that his third-seeded team will be on the road for one and, hopefully, two games. The most likely landing spots will be Murrells Inlet or, Horry County.
Following Wednesday’s loss to C-N, Pike told his players to take advantage of the break between games and come back ready to go for the possible play-in game(s).
“We told our guys after the game (Wednesday) night to rest up, take care of their bodies and be ready to go,” he said.
The locals sent out Bradwin Salmond in the hopes of taking their second round series to a fourth game and, for a while, it looked as if the 17ers would be returning to American Legion Park on Thursday.
KC jumped to a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third as Nick Stokes singled to right field before Will Abbott drew a walk. Ross Hough then went the other way with a two-out single to right field to drive in Stokes with the game’s first run. An error on the play allowed Abbott to come in with the second run.
After C-N evened things with a pair in its half of the third, the guests exploded for five runs in the fourth.
Salmond opened the inning with a leadoff single to right. Devin Beckley then hit a ground ball to third base which was thrown away as Salmond circled the bases and scored while Beckley wound up standing on third base. Stokes then drove an RBI single to right to make it 4-2.
An Abbott single kept the rally going as Stokes advanced to second base on the hit. With one gone, John Bailey sent a run-scoring double to the gap in left center which brought Tristan Smaltz onto the mound. After getting a strikeout, Hough sent a Smaltz offering to left field which drove in Abbott and Bailey as the 17ers went on top, 7-2.
Smaltz would steady the C-N ship as he struck out the side in the fifth. Meanwhile, the hosts scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to close the gap to 7-3 before exploding for five runs in the sixth to grab the 8-7 lead.
Pike said his team did not help itself in the field on a night in which KC committed four errors.
“Again,” said the first-year head coach, “the little things hurt us. There were a couple situations where we had double play balls hit to us but we took our time on those or, didn’t know exactly where to go on those plays.”
The 17ers regained the lead with a pair in the seventh. Josh Hernandez got aboard with a one-out walk before Salmond lined a single to center. Beckley followed by legging out an infield single which loaded the bags with one gone. With two outs, an error on a Stokes ground ball to shortstop allowed Hernandez and Salmond to come across with runs eight and nine, respectively.
C-N answered the call by scoring five runs in the seventh which was the final inning for Salmond. The hosts scored their final four runs with two outs and took advantage of several KC miscues along the way to put this one in the books.
“Bradwin pitched his guts out for us,” Pike said of the Salmond’s mound effort in the ‘win or go home’ contest for the visitors. “His pitch count was getting up there so we took him out but for seven innings, he gave us all that he had.”
Brock Robinson, who re-injured what had been a nagging hamstring injury on Tuesday, came on to work a scoreless eighth while drawing the admiration of his head coach. “Brock came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I can give you an inning if you need me,’” Pike said of his search for a healthy arm to close out the game.
With the possibility of another game(s) to try and qualify for the state tournament, Pike said his team needs to look ahead. He said having several days off will afford his pitching staff to get some much-needed rest. The only pitcher he ruled off limits for the play-in series is Salmond.
“This was another one of those losses where we killed ourselves,” he said of the four-run setback. “We have to flush it and move on.”
Keeping POSTed: The 17ers had starting catcher Christian Flick back on the bench and on the roster for Wednesday’s game following his visit to see family in Pennsylvania. Flick, who saw duty as a pinch-hitter in the loss, said his injured shoulder was feeling better than it did two weeks ago when he had to be pulled from the lineup in the early stages of the game against Manning-Santee ... In other Lower State second round playoff action on Wenesday, Jordan Holladay his a walk-off three-run home run to lift Sumter to an 8-6 win over Murrells Inlet to give Post 15 a 2-0 lead in that series. Horry County evened its series with Florence at a game apiece with a 7-3 victory over Post 1 ... In the Upper State bracket, Inman punched its ticket into the state tournament by sweeping past Lancaster in three games while Rock Hill is also headed for Riley Park thanks to its having knocked off Spartanburg in three games.