In 2009, the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team ended a six-year post-season drought by earning a berth in the South Carolina American Legion playoffs.
Since then, Post 17 has missed out on playing into mid-July just once.
Tonight, the locals will be playing in the Lower State playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years when Horry County Post 111 from Conway comes to American Legion Park in Camden for game one of the best-of-five series. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. Game two will be played in Conway on Tuesday with game three set for Camden on Wednesday. Should a fourth and/or a fifth game be necessary, they will be played in Conway and Camden on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively.
Kershaw County assured itself of home field advantage in the series by finishing second behind Sumter in League III with a 10-5 mark in league play. Post 17 stayed away from a one-game tie-breaker for second place with Hartsville or, finishing in third outright, with back-to-back wins over Sumter last Tuesday and Wednesday.
Post 111, which is a team made up of players from Conway, Aynor, Loris, Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach high schools, finished in third place in League II behind champion Florence (12-0) and Murrells Inlet (7-5) with a 5-7 mark in league play.
This series will mark the second straight foray into state playoff action for Post 17 head coach Craig Smith’s troops whose season ended in the first round last summer as Murrells Inlet knocked KC out in four games.
Smith said he liked the way his team is rounding into form as the post-season beckons.
“We’re going to give our guys a couple days off then, we’re going to get back at it and prepare for (this) week,” he said following last Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Sumter in the League III finale. “We have home field advantage in round one and, we don’t know what that feels like.
“We’re excited about the playoffs. We feel like, if we can do the little things right, we have a shot at getting to (the state tournament) in Sumter. But we have a lot of work to do between now and then.
“I’m just so proud of all 17 of our guys. I’m honored to coach these guys. One thing that is odd just because of the number of college signees, the college players we have on this team and the guys who are getting looks from or talking to college coaches, is that we do not have one ego on this team. There is not one kid on this team who goes around thinking that he is better than anybody else. They are like a family and they have been that way since day one.”
Post 17 will look to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2011 when then-head coach and current Sumter boss Curtis Johnson led KC past the Lowcountry Heat in five games in round one only to lose to Goose Creek in four games in round two. The 17ers missed a chance to play in that year’s state tournament with a 6-2 loss to Manning-Santee in a one-game playoff.
The winner of the KC vs. Horry County series is paired with League I champion Goose Creek and Georgetown, the fourth-place finisher from League II.
For his part, Johnson said he feels Kershaw County and Sumter can play their way in the eight-team state tournament which begins on July 26 at Riley Park in Sumter.
“I think we have a chance and they have a really good chance,” he said of the two League III entries making their way through two rounds of the playoffs following Post 17’s 6-4 win over Sumter last Wednesday. “(KC) has a bunch of good arms, a bunch of good players and they are well-coached. They are definitely a state-caliber team and, I think we are, too.”
In the other Lower State first round pairings, League II champion Florence takes on Dalzell, which was fifth in League III. Beaufort, the second-place finisher in League I pairs up with Manning-Santee, the third place finisher from League III.
In the other bracket, Sumter meets Lake City, which was fifth in League II, while League II runner-up Murrells Inlet will play Hartsville, the third-place entry from League III.