Just A Bit Outside: Down to Buisness
Baseball season is really ramping up! We’re a little over halfway through the college season. Our local high schools are entering the home stretch of the regular season. We are already 2 weeks into the Major League season.
Naturally that means there’s a mix of excitement as the high school playoff picture clears up, intrigue as the Gamecocks are entering the toughest part of their schedule from Hades and look pretty good, probably some disgust from Clemson fans (no need to elaborate), and some aggravation/panic as the Braves aren’t off to the start we’d all hoped for.
Let’s start with high school.
Region 2-2A: Landrum just keeps on destroying every team they face. Chesnee also just keeps dominating opponents. At this point it’s obvious Landrum is the favorite to win the region. But don’t write them off as having won it yet. Chesnee is a similar team to Landrum. The Cardinals love to run and steal bases, using their speed to make things happen on the base paths. But that’s not their only strength. Landrum has shown to be a complete team, able to dominate in all facets of the game. Here’s the kicker.. so has Chesnee, and no offense to the Cardinals, but Chesnee has played a much tougher schedule of late, having swept region 3-3A favorite Chapman, won a slugfest 11-8 over a good Broome team, and they are undefeated in region just like Landrum.
That series is shaping up to be even more fun than the ongoing battle for Region 2-5A between Dorman & Byrnes has been. This series not only will be for the region, but it will be big for playoff seeding as well. The top 2 from each region will make it. Regardless of who wins the series, they will both make the playoffs. It’s a matter of who will earn the higher seed.
3-3A: This region is the only one where the playoff picture isn’t clearing up yet. Chapman (9-6, 3-0 in region) is the front runner. But they still have 2 more big series to play in region with the Clinton Red Devils (who are in 2nd currently) and Emerald. I don’t know much about Clinton, but it goes without saying that if they drop a game in that series, it isn’t over but the Panthers will be sitting pretty in the catbird seat.
2-5A: Dorman and Byrnes are rivals as is. But this series was bigger than just a rivalry series. Byrnes has had strong pitching. Both offenses are strong. Dorman has had its struggles on the mound, and have had their peaks and valleys. Byrnes was the favorite in the region coming in. But Dorman was still the one that could stand in their way. This series had all the makings of a wild and crazy series. And through the first 2 games, that is exactly what we have gotten.
I was there for Monday night’s game. Dorman jumped to a 3-0 lead early. Rebel ace Andrew Bright struggled with his command, from the get-go, hitting a batter and then walking the next 3 to force in a run. He struggled again in the 2nd inning giving up back to back singles and an error that plated 2 more. He settled in from there, allowing just 1 hit in his next 2 innings before the game got away from him in the 5th.
Dorman starter Brayden Harrison was not crisp either, as he walked 4 and got roughed up in the top of the 3rd inning, where the Rebels hung a 6 spot against him to take a 6-3 lead on a hit batter, 3 consecutive walks, an rbi single, & 2 more on a bases clearing triple off reliever Adams Faucett.
The story of the game was how Dorman responded after giving up 6 and falling behind in the middle innings. After giving up the bases clearing triple to Byrnes right fielder Kai Brooks, Adams Faucett settled in and pitched the rest of the way, holding the Rebels scoreless over 4.1 innings, striking out 2, walking 2, and giving up 3 hits over that stretch.
The Cavalier bats also came to life against Andrew Bright in the 5th with a leadoff walk, a 1 out RBI single, another walk, a looping 2 run double that just barely dropped in fair on the right field line, and a 2 out RBI double off reliever Connor Kuhn.
The Cavs added an insurance run in the 6th on a Hudson Lee RBI single. But the Rebels didn’t go quietly. Byrnes loaded the bases on a leadoff walk, a dropped pop up for an error on Dorman 1B Connor Droze with 1 out, and a single. But, we’re denied a comeback chance as Hunter Lancaster grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to end the game and give the advantage in the series to Dorman.
The Cavaliers have now locked up the region, barring a major late season collapse (which is unlikely), as Dorman took the series in another high scoring slugfest at Byrnes on Wednesday night 10-7. Andrew Bright was mere feet away from redemption, having just missed a game tying homer in the 7th. These 2 will play again tonight, and though the Rebels lost the series, they’re still en route to locking up that 2nd playoff spot from this region, and I actually hope and pray that Dorman and Byrnes meet again in the playoffs.
3-5A: Boiling Springs, like Dorman, has had their Jekyll and Hyde moments this season, but have managed to prove that they are capable of winning even if they struggle in one facet of the game. When their pitching has struggled this year, their scrappy offense has managed to fight their way to wins. Where offense has lacked, they’ve gotten good pitching performances. The Bulldogs have found a way to do all that you need to in order to be a success in baseball.. win 2 out of 3. The Dogs have not dropped a series in region play, with just the 3rd game of their ongoing series with Fort Mill that they have already won the first 2 of and 3 games with Gaffney to go in their conference slate, meaning so long as they keep doing what they have been, they control their own destiny as far as winning the region goes. They are comfortable in the driver’s seat right now.
Gaffney is just now starting to get into their region schedule, but next week will determine their playoff chances. The Indians have struggled mightily this season, and if they want to get one of the 2 spots from 3-5A, they’ll need to sweep Boiling Springs, win out, and get a lot of help to make it. That will be a difficult challenge and I don’t see it happening, though they could possibly get hot at the right time and turn it around.
Right now, Nation Ford is sitting comfy for that 2nd spot at 4-2 in region, their only 2 losses being to Boiling Springs.
That was a lot to go over, so real quick, here’s what’s going on in college baseball.
South Carolina is in Baton Rouge this weekend, having already dropped game 1 of the series to LSU. The Gamecocks came in to this series having won their last 3 series and losing only 1 midweek game over that stretch to UNC in Charlotte. Last night, the Gamecocks offense ran into an absolute buzz saw in the Tigers’ de facto ace Landon Marceaux, who struck out 12 and scattered 3 hits in 7 scoreless innings. Marceaux looked like Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker against the Gamecocks, taking advantage of a wicked slider/breaking ball and the aggressive approach South Carolina took, getting into several quick 0-2 counts and getting a lot of swings and misses.
South Carolina’s Thomas Farr was better that he has been over his last few starts. His stuff was. It elite, but he did exactly what you’d ask of a game 1 starter. They don’t have to pitch shutouts or strikeout 20 to be good. Just give your team a quality start (which he came just an inning short of with only 5 ip) or hold the opponent to 2 runs or less to give your offense a chance. He only gave up 2 on a homer in the 1st inning and then settled in to strike out 3, walk 3, and scatter 4 hits.
The Cocks had a couple of chances, having had runners in scoring position in the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th innings. But they were 0-9 with RISP, mustering only a run on a sac fly in the top of the 9th. In total, they left 7 on base in the series opener.
The Gamecocks now face the really tough, but still doable task of winning 2 in a row at Alex Box Stadium to take the series against an LSU team with plenty of young talent that has struggled in SEC play, and they really need to make it happen because the schedule is about to take a major turn south with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, a struggling Kentucky, and a really strong Tennessee team still coming up. The Gamecocks are in good position to make the tournament and possibly host a regional, but it never hurts to stack wins when you can to build more cushion.
Clemson is going to need a major turnaround to make the tournament at this point, hovering around .500 at 15-14, 9-9 in ACC play. This weekend they are on the road at Miami.
In the Majors: the Braves are 5-8 so far. They have struggled to play a complete game in all 3 facets. Opposite of how Boiling Springs has been on the high school front, when the pitching is good, the Braves can’t catch a break at the plate. When they do hit and catch breaks, the pitching is terrible. The team batting average right now is .221. It seems Ronald Acuña Jr is carrying the other 8 guys on his back. The team ERA is 4.63. It’s frustrating. But.. is it time to panic?
Absolutely not! Hello.. it’s the 2nd week of April in a 162 game season. It is far too early to hit the panic button. No one has ever won a World Series in April. No team has ever clinched a division in April. It’s a looooong season.
The offense, though frustrating, has been frustrating for a reason. We know they are better than this. We also know they are getting lots of bad luck. The Braves average exit velocity has been in the 100s.. the bats have been hitting the ball on the screws. But it has been a line drive or a hard hit grounder right at somebody, or a ball hit deep into the shift. The offense will be fine. This is the same lineup that took the Dodgers to a game 7 in the NLCS a year ago. This lineup is one of the best top to bottom in the National League. The slumps and bad luck will not continue all season and this offense will be scary good when more than just Ronald Acuña (who would be called up to the next level if there were anything higher the way he is seeing and hitting the ball on another level) is hitting.
I will say this as an encouragement: the offense has been decent the last few games, having scored enough runs to win the series against Miami. They were just let down by the much more frustrating pitching struggle.
The bullpen has been a point of concerned discussion, and rightfully so, as they have been struggling with a current bullpen ERA of over 4.00 and only Sean Newcomb and AJ Minter doing any good. The bullpen is certainly not being helped with Chris Martin being on the IL. There is still plenty of time for the bullpen to get going, so you’d have to be daft to write them off this early. For sure, AA will need to get them some help at some point.
At some point, this team will get hot. They will be fine. We just have to grit our teeth and fight through the struggle just like the Braves are.