Just a Bit Outside-Spring Break
So, here’s a funny story.. I was checking the schedules for a couple of our local teams last night to see who their next big region series are against when they return from Spring Break this week when I noticed something that had me in more shock and disbelief than UNC fans were after blowing a 15 point lead in the 2nd half to lose the National Championship to Kansas (poor UNC. Gets walloped by a wide receiver playing quarterback in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl and then they whoop Coach K twice at the end of the season to go on a run to the national championship in basketball just to blow it. I kinda feel sorry for them. Kinda.. ;P).
We are down to just the last 2 (for some teams, 3) weeks of the regular season already! It feels like the Steve Sanders Tournament was just a week ago.. It seems like sports seasons go by faster and faster since things went mostly back to normal after the height of the covid pandemic. Before too long I will be breaking out the ole Jim Mora line again. “Playoffs?”
Alright, enough of my goofiness.. Here’s what happened in the world of high school baseball over the past week in our area.
Landrum right now is winning the games that matter. That’s not to say that all games aren’t ones you want to win or aren’t important. However, when it comes down to it, your region games are where it matters most. Currently the Cardinals are 4-6 overall after a slow start in non-region play, but right now, with just 6 games left in their region 2-2A schedule, the Cards sit at 3-1 in region play, just a game behind St. Joe’s in 3rd. This week, Landrum split with the region-leading Blacksburg Wildcats, winning game one of the series 5-3 at home and falling 6-1 on the road in game 2.
Due to Spring Break, the cardinals will not take to the diamond again until Thursday when they will have a great shot at continuing to either hold their ground in 3rd or move up in the standings, as they open a 2 game set with Brashier Middle College. They’ll play at Brashier Thursday and in Campobello Friday night.
Chesnee had a fantastic week, going 3-0 overall, 2-0 in region play behind some impressive offensive performances. The Eagles went down to Woodruff on Wednesday night and defeated the Wolverines 7-5 (how’s that for alliteration? haha). In region action, the weather forced them to have to play a double header Friday night. The Eagles hosted Brashier Middle College and swept them with an 8-6 W in game 1 and a dominant 18-0 shutout victory in the 2nd game (in which they were the away team since originally this was supposed to be a home and home series) highlighted in part by a grand slam from catcher Ethan Lawson in the top of the 3rd inning that made it 15-0.
Chesnee, now 4-3 overall and a game back from Landrum in 4th place in 2-2A with a region record of 3-2, will get back to action with 3 games in 3 days later this week. They’ll start with a non region game with Christ School Wednesday night at Dean Jones Stadium and then will play a home and home set with the 2nd place St Joe’s Catholic School Knights. Game one is at SJCS Thursday and the finale will be at Chesnee on Friday.
Chapman is still holding their own at the top of region 3-3A, but not by much. Broome is nipping at their heels with what is likely to be the decisive series in the region coming up. The Panthers split their series with Clinton (who is also still in the mix for the region tied with Broome for 2nd. Goodness, what’s not to love about this region? It’s absolutely nuts in every sport!) with a 6-4 win on the road in game one Tuesday and an 8-1 loss at home Friday night.
Chapman is also one of the few teams playing at least a game during Spring Break. They went to Greer for the first game of a home and home non region set. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well for the Panthers, but I’ll say this — fortunate for Greer, they finally got the monkey off their back. The Yellow Jackets got their first win of the season, knocking off the Panthers 6-5. (The 2nd game of that series will not be played until Wednesday of next week).
Chapman was slated to take on Union County Thursday of this week, however because Union opted to take a Spring Break tournament trip to the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, that game has been postponed with no date announced yet. Thus, the Panthers will not play again until Tuesday of next week as they open the series with Broome, who is also inactive for the rest of the week. The fact both teams are going to be coming in with several days’ rest means that this series will be that much more interesting.
Broome split with Union County last week in region play taking game one 3-0 Tuesday night for Coach Ben Waddle’s 475th career win. Union took game two 8-4 at Broome on Friday night.
In non region action, Broome’s only 2 games this week were against Gaffney. They were supposed to play a home and home set on Monday and Tuesday night but due to rain on Tuesday ended up playing a doubleheader at Gaffney on Monday afternoon/evening. They split with the Indians taking game one 4-1 and the Centurions taking game two in dominant fashion 12-1.
Union, as aforementioned, is playing in a tournament at the Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach this whole week. The Jackets are competing against several schools from Kentucky. Presently, they have a 1-0-1 record in that tournament with an 11-2 win over Morgan County and a scoreless tie with Bethlehem.
The Yellow Jackets are a game back from Clinton in 4th in 3-3A with a region record of 3-2. After Spring Break, they’ll play Emerald next week.
Woodruff broke a 6 game losing skid last week by beating Emerald 10-3. I said this young Woodruff team was hungry to win and they had a great opportunity to change their fortunes a bit with this stretch. They ended up splitting with Emerald and dropping a non region game with Chesnee 7-5 last week. The Wolverines lone game this week was another shot to get a W. They played Brashier on Monday (but I am having quite the time finding a score..).
This coming week, the Wolverines will begin a tough stretch with a 2 game region set with Clinton and a non region showdown with Laurens.
Greer finally broke into the win column this week after knocking off Chapman 6-5 on Monday night. This comes after they were swept last week by the Laurens Raiders 5-3 and 7-5. The Yellow Jackets have just one region series remaining against Greenwood later this month, and if they don’t win it, you can pretty much bet that any hope of making the playoffs for them will be dashed as they are currently last in 2-4A at 0-5 in region (1-6 overall). In non-region play, they still have a tough schedule ahead with 1 more game this week against Riverside on Thursday night. Next week, the Jackets will face Palmetto, Chapman, and Travelers Rest in 3 single non-region games. There’s a chance for a couple of wins there, and right now that is exactly what Greer needs. They just need a couple of wins to get some confidence to build on, whether it is confidence that can propel them to turn the corner or confidence to build on for next year.
Spartanburg has emerged as the new top dog in region 2-5A after they jumped both Dorman and Byrnes last week by virtue of sweeping Wade Hampton 12-5, 5-1, and 6-1 in a 3 game set to up their region record to 4-1 (6-2 overall). After last season, seeing what all the Vikings had coming back this year and then seeing them in action at the Steve Sanders Tournament, I had little doubt the Vikings would definitely be a little more than just a thorn in the side hoping to get one of the top 2 spots in the region. They were going to be a legitimate contender, and right now, Wesley Brown’s team is in control of their own destiny.
The Vikings still have the “City Rivalry” series coming up at the very end of the season against Dorman, who did not play any region games last week (instead dropping 2 out of 3 super close 1-run games to the defending 5A upperstate and state champion Hillcrest), and a makeup game with Byrnes still to be scheduled.
The way the 2-5A standings stack up right now, this region is the only one more intriguing than 3-3A because it will likely all be decided in those final 2 weeks of the season. Byrnes is a game back at 4-2 in region (6-2 overall) after losing one to Riverside despite taking 2 in the series last week while they will play their annual 3 game rivalry series with Dorman next week. The Rebels have 1 more region series to follow at the end of the season against Wade Hampton. At this rate, Byrnes really cannot afford to drop another game in the region or they will be out of the hunt.
Dorman also has Wade Hampton for their penultimate region series. Should they lose 1 or 2 region games down the stretch, it really will open things back up.
This week, the Cavaliers are playing a 2 game home and home set with the Lexington Wildcats. They went down to Lexington on Monday night and beat them 6-1 after salvaging the series finale with Hillcrest 3-2 on Friday night. They will face the Cats in Roebuck Wednesday night. The Cavs are currently 7-4 overall and 3rd in the region at 2-1.
Schedule notes for region 2-5A:
- Spartanburg is off this week. They will play again starting April 13th in the South Carolina Diamond Invitational Tournament where they will compete against a tough field consisting of Lexington, Blythewood, Dutch Fork, Hillcrest, Chapin, TL Hanna, TC Roberson (Asheville), Berkeley, and Brookland-Cayce. The Vikings open the tournament with the Berkeley Stags.
- Byrnes will return to action from Spring Break Thursday night with Mauldin.
The pressure of trying to hold on to win region 3-5A is no longer on the Boiling Springs Bulldogs. Last week, they took on region front runner/heavy favorite Clover in a 3 game set that started off about as well as you could possibly ask if you were the Dogs. Monday night, Boiling Springs hosted the Blue Eagles to start their region slate and jumped on them early and often with a 6 spot in the bottom of the 1st inning and 2 more in the 2nd. In all honesty though, they really didn’t need to because Tristan Smith was absolutely phenomenal on the mound, striking out 15 in 5.2 innings of 2 (unearned) run ball with 4 walks and just 1 hit. Jackson Kostiuk was just as impressive in relief of him, as he struck out 2 in an inning and a third of shutout ball. Boiling Springs went on to take game one 8-2 and set themselves up in good position to win the series and take control of their destiny as far as possibly winning the region goes.
In game 2, Clover bounced back winning a pithers’ duel 3-2 at home to even the series. Now sets the stage for a crucial rubber game on Friday.
Friday, Clover saved their best arm for the finale, going with Sam Czyz, a guy who has the stuff to keep hitters on their heels guessing. He’s tough enough to face when you’re in a good frame of mind. Unfortunately for Boiling Springs, they made things harder on themselves by helping him. He dominated the Bulldogs, pitching a complete game (it was called after 6 innings by virtue of the run rule) with 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, 5 hits, and just 1 run (it was earned) and really didn’t even have his best stuff going for him. Though they worked the count on him, Boiling Springs hitters chased a lot of pitches out of the zone, which I partially would credit to their mental state (more on that in a second).
The Bulldogs started Jackson Cole, who has been used out of the bullpen mainly this season. Cole was solid through the first inning and a third with 4 strikeouts and a hit before a dropped 3rd strike (his 5th K) and a throwing error on the catcher Brent Fowler allowed a base runner. That was followed up by back to back singles (one for an unearned run) and a squeeze bunt for an RBI. Cole bounced back with a K to end the inning and went on to get back in a rhythm with 3 more strikeouts to strand a pair that reached on walks in the 3rd. But, the trouble that completely flipped this game on its ear happened in the top of the 4th.
Going back to the mental side of things I mentioned a minute ago, Boiling Springs just really never seemed to be in the right mindset or in the game much at all mentally, which in baseball is very much so not a good thing. Baseball is a very mental sport, and if you are not in the right frame of mind, things will get away and snowball on you quickly. That’s exactly what happened on Friday. There was never much energy in the Bulldog dugout, the fielders were lackadaisical with where they were playing and their defense, and the hitters were all but just hacking away at the plate. This mental state came to an ugly head in the top of the 4th inning when the leadoff man for the Blue eagles grounded to the first baseman, who dropped the routine ground ball, recovered, but threw it away into the fence in foul ground, allowing him to reach. He did not advance on the error since the play was backed up, but that one base runner plus the lack of run support already down 2-1 put a lot of pressure on Jackson Cole to try and hold off Clover again – which is a dangerous game to play with a team as good as the Blue Eagles are. Things very quickly went off the rails for Jackson as the next 2 batters reached on a single, and a throwing error on Cole on a sac bunt throwing to 1st (which allowed an unearned run). A squeeze bunt for an RBI and a 2 out RBI single made it 7-1, which all but set Sam Czyz up to cruise the rest of the way with the Bulldog bats stymied.
Clover continued to add on with 2 in the 5th and 4 in the 6th inning off Jackson Kostiuk and Chansen Cole to take the series with a 13-1 win.
Boiling Springs, now 3rd in the region behind Nation Ford and in a tie with Gaffney at 1-2 in region (the Dogs are 4-3 overall), were scheduled to play 1 game this week with Mauldin, but it was rained out last night. Thus, the Bulldogs are off until the 11th, when they will have the chance to put some separation between themselves and Gaffney. They will open a 3 game series at home that night that will continue at Gaffney Wednesday and back at home on Friday.
The good news for the Bulldogs is that they have plenty of region games left, including a 3 game set to end the regular season with Nation Ford, who is currently 2nd, to try and up their playoff seeding and chances.
Quick note on Gaffney: as I mentioned earlier, the Indians split their double header with Broom Monday to go 1-1 on the week. The Indians have no more non-region games scheduled and will wrap up their region slate with Boiling Springs, Clover the next, and Fort Mill to finish the regular season. Each of those will be a 3 game series.
Overall, Gaffney’s record is now 3-9 overall, 1-2 in region 3-5A.
Here is a quick rundown of the Spring Break Week schedule:
Morgan Co (Ky) 2
Brashier Middle Coll
Woodruff (unknown score)
Bethlehem (Ky) 0
Murray (Ky) noon
Rowan Co (Ky) 9:00 AM
Brashier MC 5:30
St. Joe’s 7:30