Kershaw County moved a step closer to earning a spot in the second round of the South Carolina American Legion state playoffs with a 9-5 road win over Aiken on Wednesday night at Roberto Hernandez Stadium on the USC-Aiken campus.
The five-run victory gave Post 17 a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series which continued on Thursday in Camden. Should Aiken win and force a fourth game, it will be played tonight in Aiken. A fifth and deciding game, if necessary, would be contest at American Legion Park in Camden on Saturday.
As for game two of the set, the visitors jumped out to an 8-0 lead which was more than enough run support for starting pitcher Devin Beckley, who left after having worked the first five innings before handing the ball over to T.J. White to start the seventh.
The hosts cut into the P-17 lead, trailing 9-5 heading into the ninth inning before Will Abbott came on to get the final three outs.
William Cobb led the offensive surge for the locals as the rising senior at Camden High went 4-for-4 while driving in five runs.
It was Cobb’s two-run single in the fourth inning which got KC off to a 2-0 lead.
Beckley had a roller coaster ride on the hill for the 17ers.
In the first inning, Post 26 loaded the bases with one out only to have The Citadel commit get out of the jam unscathed by striking out the next two batters. Two innings later, Beckley kept the shutoutout intact by getting a bases loaded strikeout to end the threat.
Pike said not all of his right-hander’s control problems were of his own making.
“Devin threw the ball pretty well but he gave up too many walks when his stuff got away from him,” said the first-year Post 17 head coach. “Devin was having trouble with the mound there; USC-Aiken has a huge pitching mound.
“Devin got himself in trouble by getting behind in the count and then, he had to throw fastballs and their batters knew it. That handcuffs you as a pitcher but when Devin’s throwing strikes, he makes it so much easier on himself.”
The visitors erupted for six runs in the top of the sixth to go on top, 8-0. The big blow, both literally and figureatively, came off the bat of Josh Hernandez who made 5-0 when he hit a three-run blast over the fence in center field.
Pike said the home run was a no-doubter from the crack of Hernandez’s bat.
“It was a bomb,” Pike said. “The center field fence in Aiken is 400 feet and Josh’s ball cleared it by 20 to 30 feet. It was a bomb.”
KC followed that by tacking on three more runs in inning to give reliever T.J. White an 8-0 cushion heading into the home half of the sixth.
Aiken scored a pair in the seventh off to make it 8-2 before KC tacked on a ninth run in the eighth.
The hosts scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 9-5. That was close enough for Pike who brought in closer Will Abott. The Citadel-bound righty worked a 10-pitch bottom of the ninth by retiring the first two batters he faced on strikes before getting a soft comebacker to close the night which started an hour after the originally scheduled 7 p.m. opening pitch due to the threat of severe weather in the area.
With his team holding a 2-0 lead in the series, Pike said he was hardly thinking that a sweep is immenent given the talent on Aiken’s roster. At the same time, he said the P-17ers have the talent to make it to the second round and, possibly, beyond, if they play to their potential.
“We have to keep working,” he said. “It’s like I told our guys; it doesn’t matter what the situation is or, wher we are facing, we have to go out and play hard. I‘m confident that we can play with anybody in the state, it’s just a matter of us putting everything into action.”
Keeping POSTed: The 17ers were without infielder/outfielder/pitcher Nick Stokes on Wednesday who wass on vacation with his family ... As for who he would send to the mound to start Thursday’s third game of the series, Pike said he would sit down with his coaches and look at their options. Several players, he said, could be available and that piecing a game together with several pitchers takeing the hill was not out of the realm of possibility ... As far as to how the other trio of Lower State playoff series went on Wednesday, defending American Legion World Series champion Chapin-Newberry was downed by Hartsville, 8-2, tying that series in which the winner will meet the Post 17 vs. Aiken winner in the second round. Florence took a 2-0 lead over Manning-Santee with a 10-1 win. Horry County took a 2-0 lead in its series with West Florence thanks to an 8-0 victory on Wednesday in Conway. Orangeburg, which fell to Murrells Inlet in game one, had the second game of that series postponed to Thursday after heavy rains on Wednesday afternoon made Mirmow Field unplayable. As for the fight-marred, Sumter vs. Lexington series, that has been made into a three-game set. (See story above)