Before he left the playing field at American Legion Park following last Monday’s 6-1 win over Lexington which wrapped up the League III title for his club, Kershaw County American Legion baseball head coach Stephen Carmon predicted that Lexington would come out with its full roster and have both guns blazing in Wednesday’s final meeting of the four-game series between the two sides.
Was Carmon ever wrong.
Facing a Post 7 squad which trotted out more of its regular starters, KC scored 12 runs in its final two at-bats and cruised to a 22-8 win to cap a 9-3 league campaign while carrying a 15-4 overall mark into Monday’s scheduled regular season finale at Florence Post 1.
The 22-run outburst marked the most runs scored by Post 17 since a 21-10 win over Manning-Santee on June 10, 2017 in what was the final season in the dugout for then KC head coach Tyler Pike before giving way to Carmon in 2018.
By virtue of having won the its second consecutive League III title, KC avoided playing in the best-of-three first round American Legion State playoffs which kick off Wednesday night involving eight teams. There is more on that later.
When Lexington came to Camden last Monday, it was without cleanup hitter Noah Huthmaker and leadoff batter Chris Lebron while scheduled starter Nate Roof developed an arm issue warming up in the bullpen that night. Huthmaker was back in the lineup Wednesday, but went 0-for-4 as the top four in the Grizzlies’ batting order went a combined 1-for-14.
John Lanier worked the first five frames for the guests to pick up his first win as a 17er. The lefty allowed one hit and fanned one while being tagged for five --- all unearned --- runs. He gave way to Alex Canino in the sixth before Brady White finished the night with one inning of scoreless work out of the bullpen.
The visitors pounded out 20 hits against five Post 7 pitchers with Noah Rabon going 4-for-5 with a pair of RBI. Jake Laffin had a three-hit, three RBI night while Dalton Reeves had three hits --- including a pair of doubles --- to go along with as many RBI. Da’Avion Sumpter made the most of his two hits as he knocked in five runs.
The 17ers jumped on Lexington starter Aaron White for six runs in the second to grab a 6-0 lead.
A Rabon double drove in Wynston Dyer with the first run while a Jaiden Garner sacrifice fly made it 2-0. Sumpter’s two-out single to left brought across runs five and six as the rout started taking shape.
An inning later, KC made it 10-0 with a four-run third with doubles off the bats of Bradwin Salmond and Khyree Miller plating a run each.
The hosts cut the lead in half at 10-5, scoring three unearned runs in the third and two more of the same variety in the fourth.
The 17ers put this one in pocket with a seven-run sixth which was highlighted by run-scoring singles from Garner, Salmond, Sumpter, Laffin, a Reeves double and Dyer’s sac fly as the lead grew to 17-5.
With the advantage at 17-8, the visitors put the finishing touches on this one with a five-run seven in which Rabon and Laffin had run-producing singles while Sumpter’s sac fly to left drove in another run.
Playoff picture: As mentioned, the 17ers used Monday’s game at Florence as a tune-up for the state playoffs. Last Thursday’s scheduled game at Sumter fell victim to the weather and will not be made up.
Kershaw County will begin second round state tournament play at home at American Legion Park in Camden against former League III foe Orangeburg on Monday, July 15. Game two in the best-of-five series will be played at Mirmow Field in Orangeburg on Tuesday, July 16 with game three returning to Camden the following night. Games four and five, if needed, will be played in Camden and Orangeburg, respectively.
Orangeburg won the second-place tie-breaker in League I with a 5- 7 record which includes at least one forfeit when Hampton packed it in heading into the final week of the regular season.
The winner of the Post 17 vs. Orangeburg series will advance to the second round of the Lower State playoffs against the winner of the Florence Post 1 vs. the winner of the first round Manning-Santee vs. Lexington series beginning Monday, July 22. The winner of that best-of-five earns a berth in the state championship tournament to be played at Segra Park in Columbia beginning Wednesday, July 31.
Here is how the Lower State playoffs shape up:
Round 1 – beginning Wednesday, July 10: Manning-Santee vs. Lexington. Winner advances to meet League II champion Florence; Horry County vs. Dalzell-Shaw. Winner advances to meet League I champion Goose Creek.
Round 2 – beginning Monday, July 15; Top half of bracket: Kershaw County Post 17 vs. Orangeburg; Manning-Santee/Lexington winner vs. Florence; Bottom half of bracket: Aiken vs. Sumter; Horry County/Dalzell-Shaw winner vs. Goose Creek
Round 3 - beginning Monday, July 22; Top half of bracket: Kershaw County Post 17/Orangeburg winner vs. Florence/Manning-Santee vs. Lexington winner; Bottom half of bracket: Aiken/Sumter winner vs. Horry County/Dalzell-Shaw vs. Goose Creek winner.