Just A Bit Outside 3-24
Spring is here, meaning we have officially gotten into the heart of high school baseball season. It also means yellow is everywhere, Jordan is sneezing and sniffling a lot, and that rain at least once a week is all but inevitable.
Weather certainly has wreaked its havoc, with some teams in our area not even having played 5 games yet. But, there are a fortunate few who have had minimal interruptions that are getting into their region schedules, and that is exciting!
Here’s a quick recap of the last week by team:
Landrum: The Cardinals struggles through the early part of the season continue, as you might expect from a young team under a new head coach. Justin Henson’s squad has two 8th graders, 2 freshmen, and 2 sophomores playing. Of the returning juniors and seniors, only Beckett Driggers saw extensive varsity reps in 2021. The Cards split their 2 games since my article last week, picking up a narrow 10-9 win over Spartanburg Christian Academy on Thursday and then getting shut out 13-0 on the road by the TR Devildogs. Overall, Landrum now sits at 2-4 (mind you, that is not counting their record in tournament play) as they eye the start of region 2-2A play Thursday, where they will begin a 2 game set with Greer Middle College.
Chesnee: The Eagles are one of the teams in our area who have unfortunately yet to really get off the ground this season in both figurative senses of the word. They last played on March 11th at Broome, where they fell to the Centurions 6-1. They were scheduled to play Woodruff on the 16th only to have that game postponed due to rain with no make-up date set as of yet. They were also scheduled to travel up to R-S Central tonight until the day was washed out. That game has been completely canceled. As of right now, Chesnee stands at 0-1 on the season (again, not counting the preseason tournament games) with their first region series coming up with the Blacksburg Wildcats.
Broome: The Broome Centurions continue to be a team that impresses me more and more every time I see them play. This Broome team has athletes and they have been showing that they can beat you in every conceivable way. They have been able to beat opponents using speed and aggression on the basepaths, just putting the ball in play and putting pressure on defenses to make a play. They have been able to beat opponents with strong pitching and depth. Last night, I came to find that they can also respond to adversity well and find a way to win (more on that in just a second). The Centurions started off region play last week with a 2 game set versus Emerald (and as of now, Broome has played the most region games out of all our teams). Ben Waddle’s squad swept those 2 games, winning the first one 15-1 on March 15th and taking the 2nd game 5-0 behind an incredible pitching performance from Adam Stacy.
Last night, they opened their 2nd region series with the Clinton Red Devils at home and faced early trouble. Jeb Dawson started the game for Broome and he did not quite have his sharpest stuff. He managed to pitch around 2 hits and a walk in the first 2 innings, but he did not get the kind of run support we are used to seeing Broome pitchers get so far this season in those 2 frames either. Broome had a chance to jump on Clinton early. Braxtin Turner led off the bottom of the 1st with a walk. After jeb Dawson flied out to center, Turner got caught wandering off the bag (got a big secondary lead because it is Broome. Steals are a big part of their offensive MO) and was thrown out at 2nd. Credit to Clinton, this is where you knew that Broome was going to have to find a different way to move runners around and drive in runs. The Red Devils did a good job of holding Centurion base runners on with a lot of quick (and close) pickoff attempts. Anyway, after a single from Adam Stacy and a walk by Morgan Robson, Broome had 2 on with 2 away for Dylan Ramirez, who popped up to the 2nd baseman to end the inning. The Centurions wouldn’t get another big chance at a rally until the 4th inning.
Clinton added even more adversity for Broome when they put together a big inning in the top of the 3rd. The Devils sent 8 men to the plate in a rally that all started with letting the leadoff man on with an error on the shortstop. The next batter laid down a bunt single, and after a pop up back to the mound for the 1st out, Dawson would go on to give up back to back to back singles and a fielders choice that went for an RBI and out #2. All in all, Dawson surrendered 4 runs, with only 1 earned (there were a couple of errors between all those base hits).
Here’s how Jeb responded to his adversity. He grinded. He got over the rough start and got into a groove, going 3 more innings, in which he shut Clinton down. He got them in order in the 4th and 5th, striking out the side on 14 pitches in the 5th. His final line was 6 innings, 6 strikeouts, 2 walks, 6 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned. If you just look at the line by itself as numbers, it doesn’t seem impressive, but to battle back the way he did, it most certainly was. Also have to give props to the hard throwing young kid that came in to close the game for Broome. Brady Jones tops out in the mid to upper 80s with his fastball and is basically unhittable when he has his control. He struck out 2 with just 1 hit and no walks or runs in his lone inning of work to get the save and he had his hitters looking silly swinging.
Offensively, Broome responded with a big inning of their own by scoring 4 runs with 2 out to take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the 4th. They got their first 2 batters of the inning on, but baserunning blunders and their aggressiveness led to both getting thrown out trying to stretch to 2nd. So, rather than trying to execute the hit and run or steal after a 2 out single from Brady Jones, they changed their approach and just started working the count and trying not to do too much. That simple approach led to 5 consecutive base hits and the lead that they would not relinquish. Broome went on to win 6-4 to move to 3-0 in region 3-3A and 6-0 overall (not counting Steve Sanders Tournament record).
Chapman: The only thing hotter than the Broome Centurions right now is Steve Fusaro’s Chapman Panthers. As I said in my preview after the Steve Sanders Tournament, Chapman returned almost everyone from last year, making them an instant favorite to be one of the teams at the top of region 3-3A. So far, that still rings true. The Panthers are off to a 6-0 start to the season (again, not counting tournament) and are tied with Broome at the top of 3-3A at 3-0. They’re even with Broome in a few ways, really. Both Broome and Chapman are stacked with veteran talent. Both can beat you in a bevy of different ways. Both teams are aggressive, both at the plate and on the bases. Lastly, both teams can also find ways to win when the regular way isn’t working. I saw all of that play out this past Thursday when Chapman hosted Woodruff for their 2nd game in region play.
Jacob Cogdell pitched brilliantly, getting the win in the game that was run ruled after 4 innings, striking out 6 with no walks, a hit, and an earned run (that hit and the run was a solo homer from Wolverine 1st baseman Stetson Schubach). Woodruff starter Ashton Mack struggled with command early, hitting Jarren Metcalf and Hudson Moss on his first 2 pitches he threw. From there, it seemed that Chapman’s offensive approach was just to not try and do too much even though Mack was struggling. In 2.2 innings, the Panthers tagged him for 9 hits, and none of them were for extra bases. Chapman tacked on 12 runs, 11 of them earned. Not to discredit Chapman any – to score runs in bunches like that just by going up there and taking what the pitcher gives you requires a lot of discipline, but the one thing that seems clear about Woodruff is that they don’t have a lot of depth on the mound. Once Woodruff did finally make a pitching change, Coach Fusaro opted to empty his bench up 14-1, and even the Chapman bench was able to string together a rally, plating 2 more on a walk, 2 singles, a fielders choice for an RBI, and an RBI to result in the game being called. Sure Woodruff was overmatched. But, that doesn’t mean Chapman did not still need to execute. This Chapman team is very good and I fully believe that region 3-3A will come down to the series between them and Broome later this year.
Union County: The Yellow Jackets are off to a 2-2 start to the season after several postponements and cancellations. They opened Region 3-3A play with a scheduled 2 game set with Clinton, but only got to play one, where they fell 14-4. After rain canceled their games against Lancaster last Wednesday and postponed game 2 of their series with Clinton on Friday, they played back to back games to start this week. Monday they Jackets knocked off the Chester Cyclones 7-5 and then started a 2 game series with Woodruff on the road on Tuesday. Union defeated the Wolverines 5-4 for their first region win of the season. That series will wrap up Friday night at the Timken sports complex. They’ll travel to Broome on Tuesday the 29th.
Woodruff: I’ve already mentioned the wolverines a few times, but in short, they’re off to a rough start, sitting at 1-4 overall (0-3 in region 3-3A), having lost to Southside Christian 4-2 to open the season, beaten Brashier Middle College 5-1, and dropping their next 3 in a 2 game Region sweep by Chapman, and a series opening loss to Union on Tuesday. They were scheduled to play at Laurens today (3/23) but have been pushed to tomorrow night at 7:30. They’ll pick Region play back up at Union on Friday night at 7:30. Their next region series starts Tuesday at Emerald.
Dorman: Dorman is a heavy favorite to repeat as Region 2-5A champions, and that is with good reason. I had a chance to see them in action against Riverside this past Friday, and this team does not look like they have lost a beat from last year despite having lost Connor Droze, TJ White, Davis Cardew, and Tyler Gist.
Jack Jolly still has a veteran team with 3 juniors in Chas Whelch, Brycen Plexico, and Haston Meeks, as well as 8 seniors in Avery Still, Jake Keltner, Adams Faucett, Owen Turner, Hudson Lee, David Cheves, Byers Smith, and Braeden Harrison. The only thing better than the power, speed, and experience returning for Dorman is their depth on the mound.
At the end of last season, pitching depth became an issue for the Cavs as they were eliminated in the upperstate championship in just 1 game after burning through their bullpen in a double header against JL Mann for the district championship. Hudson Lee returning as the ace is huge for Dorman, but they also will have a 2nd starter to help save the bullpen this year in Mitch Wilson (who also catches). Mitch had been injured and could not pitch last season, but will be returning this season. Everyone on the roster except Chas Whelch, Clay Crossley, Owen Turner, and Josh Brown is available to pitch in a pinch for Dorman, which can only help once they get deep into the playoffs. The key will be keeping everyone healthy.
The Cavs are off to a 3-2 start to the regular season (2-1 in region 2-5A) having taken 2 out of 3 from Riverside with explosive offensive performances (run rule in both wins with scores of 16-6 and 14-4). They also split a couple of non-region games with Mauldin with a 16-6 W and an 18-8 loss.
This team can score runs in bunches, but they also have some things to work out pitching wise in spite of the depth they now have. They will be dangerous of the pitching and offense are both clicking at the same time. But if one or both isn’t on, they could end up in the same position they were at the end of last season. There’s a long way to go this season, and it is hard to count Dorman out of the conversation. I think they will find their rhythm at the right time and make another deep run.
Byrnes: the Rebels are another one of the teams that the weather won’t let take off. They have played 3 games so far in this regular season, with 2 of them being region games against Spartanburg. That was stated to be a 3 game series over the last week, but the rain on Friday night forced a late postponement with no makeup date set just yet. In the 2 they did play, they won a back and forth offensive slugfest 15-13 at Duncan Park last Thursday, and dropped a 4-2 decision at home on Monday.
In their lone non-region game, they fell 22-11 Tuesday night at Greenwood. Overall, Byrnes sits at 1-3, 1-1 in region 2-5A. They will have a pair of tough tests with a battle on the road Thursday night against Chapman and a 2nd matchup Friday at home against Greenwood. The Rebs will resume their region schedule Monday as they go to Riverside.
Spartanburg: same as Byrnes, Wes Brown’s Vikings have only been able to get 4 games in, but have faired out better record wise. The Vikes are 2-2, opening the season with an 11-3 win over Greer, having lost to Chapman 12-11 in extra innings, and splitting with Byrnes.
The Vikings were slated for a 2 game non region series with Eastside, but the rain on Wednesday made for poor field conditions at Duncan Park, forcing a cancellation. Game 2 is still set to be played on the road Friday at 6:30 followed by a 3 game region series with Wade Hampton starting Monday.
Boiling Springs: Jeff Lipscomb’s Bulldogs have also been affected heavily by the weather, having played just 3 times so far this regular season. The good news for the Dogs is that they are 3-0. They opened the season with what was supposed to be a home and home 2 game series with Eastside. Tristan Smith and Jackson Cole combined to shut the Eagles out as the Bulldog offense scrapped their way to a 1-0 walkoff win. Game 2 was canceled due to rain last Wednesday.
This week, Boiling Springs swept Chapin in a 2 game home and home set, taking game 1 on the road 11-4 and game 2 at home 9-3. The Bulldogs were supposed to play an interesting pair of non region games that would make for a tough early season test against Dorman, but the rain Wednesday night plus a lack of availability of a make up date forced it to be canceled. They are still slated to play at Boiling Springs Friday night at 6:30.
The Dogs will really get a trial by fire next week as they start region play in a 3 game tilt with Clover, who after seeing them run the table in the Steve Sanders Tournament to win it, I can say with confidence is the clear favorite to win region 3-5A. If Boiling Springs manages to win the series, that will change, as the Bulldogs would have the advantage so long as they don’t have a mid or late season slip up. But it will definitely be a good series to catch and it will be a tough series for the Bulldogs.
I honestly don’t know much about Gaffney or Greer, being that I have yet to see them and their scores are difficult to come by, but as the season goes along, I will give them more adequate coverage. (Indian and Yellow Jacket fans will just have to have some patience with me for now haha..)
Now that we have gotten through that, here is the schedule for this week:
Nation Ford 1
Boiling Springs 11
Boiling Springs 9
Emerald 1 (run rule in 5)
Greer Middle College
Boiling Springs 6:30
Be sure to tune in and join me Sunday afternoons for the Just a Bit Outside show for scores, coach interviews, standings, schedules and more! It will immediately follow the Gamecock baseball postgame wrap (except this week). Time will be announced later, since Carolina does not play Sunday)!