By rankings alone, the Kershaw County Post 17 vs. Florence Post 1 third round state American Legion playoff series screams to be played on the big stage which is Segra Park in Columbia, site of the 2019 South Carolina American Legion state finals.
Instead, the best-of-five pairing between the state’s top two ranked teams will be a home and home series which opens Monday in Florence with game sites rotating nightly between American Legion Stadium in Florence and Camden’s American Legion Park. Games in Camden will have a 7 p.m. start with those in Florence beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Florence won home field advantage in the series based on runs allowed in round two. Post 1 have up six runs in its three games with Lexington while KC allowed nine to Orangeburg.
Following Wednesday night’s game, it was believed that home field advantage would have been determined by a coin flip to see which team --- both league champions --- would have the possibility of playing three home games in the series. On Thursday, home field advantage for the series was learned to be runs allowed in the second round series.
By virtue of the rule, Post 1 will host games one, three on Monday and Wednesday nights, respectively, and, potentially a fifth and deciding game on Friday. KC will host Tuesday’s second game and Thursday’s fourth game, if necessary.
For whatever it is worth, Florence (29-3) is ranked atop the 10-team statewide poll past week while Post 17 (18-5) was tucked in at second. In the first poll of the regular season, the two sides were flip-flopped with KC’s win over Post 1 in the season-opening tournament in Florence putting the locals in the number one hole. The P-17ers have never been out of the top four in the poll while Florence slid to sixth in week three and have not fallen from the top three since.
This series, admitted KC head coach Stephen Carmon, seems to have all the trappings of a state championship pairing. Due to the draw and brackets, however, teams and fans will get more bangs for their collectiv buck.
“Unfortunately,” said the second-year P-17 boss, “you have a draw where two of the best teams in the state have to play each other to get to the final four. It is what it is, though. We’re going to do our best to make sure that team (advancing)is going to be us.”
KC and Florence have met twice and split two games already this year. In the championship contest of the Florence Post 1 tournament on May 26, the 17ers left Florence with an 8-2 win over Derick Urquhart’s squad. Florence evened the series with a 4-0 victory on July 8 in Florence as lefty Anthony Hopkins limited the guests to four hits.
Since 2014, when Florence knocked the 17ers from the state tournament at Riley Park in Sumter in the fourth round, the two sides have met seven times with Post 1 holding a slim, 4-3 advantage. In 2016, Florence defeated KC, 9-8, to win the state championship in Sumter.
Florence is expected to send out Hopkins to start Monday’s opener. He comes off consecutive shutout performances. Carmon is expected to start another lefty, Justin Dorton on Monday. Dorton is 7-0 on the season and is 20-0 since his first summer with the 17ers in 2017.
On paper, Post 1’s long suit appears to be its pitching while KC has an offensive arsenal which does not allow pitchers to take a breather and let down their guard.
Carmon said this series has the earmarks one which could go the full five games with the survivor being the team which comes up big at critical times.
“It’s going to be a tough series. They’re one of the best teams in the state each and every year and there is nothing different this year,” he said.
“They have some of the best players in the state on their team and we have some of the best players in the state on our team. It’s going to be who wants it more, who battles hardest when the games are tight and who comes up with the big hit, the big pitch and things like that. It will be good for our guys. We’ll be ready.”