Like a good insurance policy, depth is always there if and when you need it.
Playing a game in the middle of senior beach week, the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team needed every available body for Tuesday’s non-league game with visiting Dalzell-Shaw. The end result was a display of just how deep the state’s second-ranked American Legion entry is on an evening it was needed.
With his team down nine players and having dressed out 11, Post 17 head coach Stephen Carmon plugged players into unfamiliar positions both in the field and in the batting order while Zack Reynolds threw a six-inning gem in a 7-1 victory over the Jets at American Legion Park.
The two sides complete the home-and-home series tonight with a 7 p.m. game at Thomas Sumter Academy in Dalzell.
In winning for the ninth time in 10 outings, the hosts moved starting centerfielder Bradwin Salmond to second base. The team’s winningest pitcher, Justin Dorton, started in left field with Heath Stokes manning center while Jake Tanner moved to shortstop. Jaiden Garner, who usually closes out the batting order, was moved to the five hole with Sam Ferguson being inserted into the role of designated hitter and belting two hits in his first at-bats of the season.
On this night, it was as if the 17ers never missed a beat in extending their win streak to three games.
“Yeah, we had nine guys missing,” Carmon said, “but I felt good about the guys we had here tonight. Some of the guys in our lineup tonight haven’t had a lot of playing time this year, especially at the plate, but they stepped up.
“We have a lot of good players throughout our entire 20-man roster. I told them before the game that I felt comfortable about who we have. I knew we were missing a lot of guys tonight, but I’d put our guys up against anybody else.”
The improved Jets, who own lopsided wins over League II foes Murrells Inlet and Orangeburg, had one bad inning, but it proved costly. In a scoreless game, KC sent 12 batters to the plate in a seven-run, seven-hit bottom of the third which was more than enough run support for Reynolds.
Reynolds, a rising senior at Lugoff-Elgin, threw six innings of shutout baseball needing just 77 pitches while allowing a pair of singles while fanning three batters and not issuing a walk. Only two runners advanced beyond first base as the right-hander improved to 3-0 on the season while lowering his earned run average to 1.02 in 13.2 innings of work.
“Zack’s consistent. He’s going to go out there and throw strikes,” Carmon said of Reynolds. “We knew if we could score three or four runs for him that we would be all right and that we would win the game. We did that. We had that big seven-run inning and that gave us a little breathing room.”
Reynolds was lifted after six innings with Sam Ferguson coming on in the seventh and allowed the guests’ lone run of the contest.
Dalzell-Shaw starter Tyler Warren was rolling along through two frames before things went sour for the Jets’ righty in the third.
Ferguson opened the rally by sending a one-hop double to the fence in left. Salmond traded spots with Ferguson as he blistered an RBI double which hugged the right field line to make it 1-0. Sawyer Reeves followed by lining a single into left to plate Salmond.
The inning received a boost when Wynston Dyer hit a comebacker to Warren, who fired a throw to second in attempt to nail Reeves, but the shortstop never touched the bag while the throw to get Dyer at first was late as KC was still in business with runners on first and second with no outs.
Dalton Reeves, who was plugged into the cleanup spot, laid down a dandy bunt along the third base line for a single to load the bases for Garner whose fly ball to shallow center was hauled in by second baseman Carson Collins. With Collins’ back to the plate, Sawyer Reeves tagged up from third and scored the third run.
With two gone, Stokes kept things going with a run-scoring single to left. Dorton then laced a single to right to make it 5-0 before Ferguson had his second hit of the inning, this one a single which drove Stokes in with the sixth run. An error on Salmond’s grounder to second allowed Dorton to come across with the seventh run.
“We were comfortable,” Carmon said of his team’s being on top, 7-0. “We knew Zack, if we needed him to, could go the whole game. They weren’t really hitting him too well and Zack wasn’t walking guys, either. When you have a pitcher doing that --- they’re not squaring you up and the pitcher’s not giving you anything ---, it’s hard to get runs across.”
The seven runs were more than enough for Reynolds who never broke a sweat on a near-perfect evening for baseball.
The locals finished with 10 hits with Ferguson, Salmond and Dalton Reeves each enjoying two-hit nights with Salmond having a pair of doubles.
“Our guys swung the bats well tonight,” Carmon said of his team’s offense.
Tuesday’s contest opened a four games in as many nights stretch for the Jets, who had League II makeup games slated for Wednesday and Thursday before hosting Post 17 tonight. Carmon said he expected to be missing a couple more players tonight, but anticipated having enough players to return from the beach to field a squad. Heath Stokes (2-0) is the scheduled starter for the visitors.
Carmon said he would like to keep the momentum going into next week’s key games with surging Lexington, but said the focus is to win League III and get a good seed for the state playoffs and avoid playing in the first round best-of-three series.
“We want to keep the momentum going … keep the streak going,” he said. “We’re going to have some more guys missing (tonight) and I will have to figure that out. Our guys will be fine, though. Even if we struggle (Friday), I know they’ll be back next week and be ready to get it started, again.”
Keeping POSTed: With two hits in three at-bats on Tuesday, Dalton Reeves now has five hits in 10 at-bats this season … The 17ers open an important League III series with Lexington next week. After dropping two of three to West Columbia in week one, Lexington took a pair from Aiken and were leading in a rain-shortened third game to improve to 3-2 in league play. Like all four League III entries, Lexington stepped out of league play this week and beat Greenwood, 1-0, on Tuesday … The Post 17 vs. Lexington series opens Monday with a 7 p.m. game in Camden before continuing Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game at the Lexington Sports Complex.