It wasn’t like they weren’t warned.
Following last Wednesday’s 10-2 win over visiting Aiken, which came one night after a 7-3 win over Post 26, the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team was told by head coach Stephen Carmon that Aiken was much better than what it showed in the first two games of League III play.
Friday night, Post 26 made Carmon’s words prophetic as the hosts handed KC its first defeat of the season and, in a big way, with a 8-0 win over Post 17 in the third of four games between the two sides.
The loss was the first in seven tries for the locals who were dropped to second behind Greenville in the third state American Legion poll of the young season.
Carmon said the team that returned to Aiken on Friday was not the same one which outscored Post 26 by a combined 17-5 score in their first two games.
“The biggest thing was our guys didn’t show up to play,” said the second-year KC head coach. “I don’t think we were very focused, at all, going into the game.
“It had been so easy for us to this point. We hadn’t had many close games. I think this was one of those games where our guys just showed up and expected to win. In American Legion ball, you’re playing all-star teams. You can’t just roll out the balls and win on talent alone. You have to be locked in mentally and physically.”
The 17ers were held to a season-low four hits by the Aiken duo of Brendan Moyer and Kenny Miller. Moyer, a right-hander, went the first six frames and allowed three hits while fanning four and walking three betters before Miller came on in the seventh to complete the shutout.
KC sent out John Lanier who was making his first mound appearance since pitching in the the 5A state championship series three weeks earlier for Blythewood. The Citadel-bound lefty was tagged for six runs on as many hits with one strikeout in 2.1 innings of work.
Aiken scored all eight of its runs in the opening three frames starting with a pair in the first inning befiore adding three runs in both the second and third innings.
Moyer helped his own cause in the bottom of the first when he followed a Brandon Paradise one-out double to center with a two-run shot to center to give the home side a quick 2-0 advantage.
An inning later, KC was unable to field a Joseph Johnson sacrifice bunt which put runners on the corners with no outs. Another error plated a second run and kept the inning alive.
Carmon said Lanier was throwing strikes but ran into some tough luck against an aggressive Aiken offense which took advantage of the visitors’ miscues in the field.
“Early in the game,” Carmon said, “we had some issues with errors and miscommunication. We missed a spot on an 0-2 pitch and (Moyer) hit it out of the park.
“I thought (Lanier) pitched well. He threw the ball well and threw strikes. Our defense just didn’t make the plays we needed to behind him. Give credit to Aiken; they took advantage of it.”
The two errors which the 17ers committed in the second equaled the number they had made through the first six games.
“Defense has been our one consistent, thus far. We’ve been solid on defense,” Carmon said. “We haven’t given the other team anything. On Friday night, collectively, we didn’t play our best ball.”
KC had runners in scoring position in the first and sixth innings. In the first, with runners on second and third with no outs, Moyer got a fly ball to shallow center and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. In the sixth, a double play killed a potential rally.
“(Moyer) threw strikes. He mixed the changeup and threw our timing off a little bit,” Carmon said of his team’s offense which collected singles from Heath Stokes, Jake Tanner, Sawyer Reeves and Justin Dorton.
Carmon said the loss was not the worst thing which could have happened to his squad at this early juncture of the season. In fact, he said, it may serve to stoke the fire for a team which had had its way up until this contest.
“I think it was a good little wake up call for us,” Carmon said. “It showed us that we can be beat and that we have to bring it every day. We have to show up ready to play because these teams that we’re playing have good players, as well.
“I think this was good for us. You never like losing, but I think some good can come from it in showing our guys that’s it’s not going to be as easy as it had been for us.”
Carmon said his team had a good practice Sunday night as KC opened a three-game set with West Columbia --- which took two of its three games with Lexington --- on Monday at American Legion Park in Camden. The two sides meet Wenesday at Brookland-Cayce High School and then return to Camden on Thursday. All games have 7 p.m. start times.
“West Columbia just beat Lexington twice,” Carmon said. “It’s like I told our guys (Sunday) night, West columbia has a good team and they have a lot of good players on that team.”
Keeping POSTed: After this week’s trio of games with West Columbia, the 17ers step out of League III play next week to play former league rival Dalzell-Shaw in a home and home set ... KC returns to League III play Monday, June 17th hosting Lexington in the first of a four-game series .