Just A Bit Outside 4-15
This week is the polar opposite of last week in high school baseball across our area. Last week during Spring Break, we did not have very many games played. This week is slammed full and is really the most important week of the season yet so far with 3 series with playoff seeding and region championship implications taking place.
Rather than go team by team with what happened last week like I have been, I am just going to break down what has happened so far this week, touch on region scenarios, and give the schedule for the remainder of the week.
Starting in region 2-2A, Landrum has a huge battle this week with St Joe’s. The Knights have easily been the best and most complete team in that region this season, having been undefeated in region play coming in. But, that did not stop the Cardinals. Say what you want about non-region games. They are games that get reps to prepare you for region play and build confidence. You would like to win them as much as you would like to win every game. But, the truth is that they really don’t matter. The games that determine if you go to the playoffs and what seed you get are your region games. Those are the most important ones, and Landrum, despite the slow/tough start in non-region play, has found a way to get in a groove and win region games.
The Cards entered this week just a game behind St. Joe’s in 2nd place with a region record of 5-1, whereas St. Joe’s was 5-0. The Knights had been playing well at home, and that place, regardless of the sport, has always been a house of horrors for Landrum. But, the Cardinals overcame all that and used a 5 spot in the 6th inning to propel their way to a huge 8-3 victory and jump the Knights in the standings. As great as that is, the Cardinals have not yet reached the top of the mountain, but they can see it.
Wednesday night, the Cardinals hosted St. Joe’s with a real chance to sweep the series and put themselves in control of their fate. The game went about how you would expect 2 teams that are hot and battling for a region title to go. There was no dominant pitching performance. Instead, both teams traded blows throughout the game, which made for both a nerve-wracking and entertaining struggle that came down to the final out. Wesley Shipman had his ups and downs in the 6 ⅔ innings he pitched, giving up 11 hits with just 4 strikeouts and no walks. He pitched out of trouble in the first 2 innings, gave up 3 straight 1 out singles and a sac fly for 2 runs in the 3rd, gave up 2 on a homer to center in the 4th before settling back down. After the 4th, he pitched 2 more brilliant innings until trouble found him again in the 6th. That was when St. Joe’s took the lead on an RBI single and a blown call on a play at the plate (that is not bias on my part speaking. The throw beat the runner by over a second and he was tagged out clearly, but the umpire called him safe in one of the most atrocious calls since Alec Bohm didn’t touch home plate last April against the Braves).
Offensively, Landrum was led by Jesse Bowers, who was 2 for 4 with a single, a double, and 2 RBIs with a run scored. Third baseman Jack Clark and DH Caleb Emory als tallied an RBI each. Titus Poore was 2-3 with a pair of 1 baggers and a run scored.
The scenario from here after the tough loss for Landrum is not at all complicated. But they will need to help themselves and get some help from Blacksburg at the same time. St. Joseph’s leads the region by 1 game after last night. Both teams have 1 more region series to play. Landrum has Chesnee next week and SJ’s has Blacksburg.
To have any shot at winning the region or at least tying, Landrum has to sweep Chesnee.
If St. Joe’s splits the 2 game set with Blacksburg and the Cards sweep the Eagles in their 2 game series, there will be a tie for region 2-2A, which I believe would be broken by a playoff for the top spot.
Should Blacksburg sweep St. Joe’s and Landrum sweep Chesnee, Landrum is the region champion. If Landrum splits or is swept at all, St. Joe’s is region champ, with a little help to seal the deal by at least splitting with Blacksburg.
It will be very exciting to see how this goes as the region comes down to the nitty-gritty.
Region 3-3A’s final scenario is far less complicated, but still, as is always the case, this region will be decided in the final week. It may even come down to the final region game. Coming out of Spring Break, the top 3 teams in the region were all separated by 1 game. Chapman was on top with just 1 region loss to Clinton a couple of weeks ago. Broome was in 2nd a game back. Clinton was lurking a game back from the Centurions in 3rd. That set the stage for a crucial series this week that I have been looking forward to ever since the Steve Sanders Tournament.
Chapman and Broome squared up in a 2 game set this week with game one on Tuesday night at Chapman and game 2 Friday at Broome. Whoever won the first game of the series was going to set themselves up in the driver’s seat in the region. In game 1, Chapman elected to go right for the kill shot, using their ace Ricky Montalvo whereas Broome seems to have opted to save Jeb Dawson in a gamble for a hopeful sweep. Adam Stacy took the mound for the Centurions.
You know how I keep saying I see something/learn something new about this Broome team every time I watch them? Well, that didn’t change. But what I saw this time wasn’t an impressive positive thing. I saw something I have yet to see out of them. Baseball may not be as physically demanding of a sport as basketball or football, but it is a “long” sport. You play multiple games in a week. You play the longest season out of any major sport, regardless of what level you play on. Because of that, you inevitably run into a week or so stretch where everyone is in a funk. You will start to see injuries pile up. You will start to see fatigue, especially in young pitchers’ arms. It happens. When you have a big series like this coming right out of an entire week off, it can compound that problem.
That is seemingly what happened to Broome Tuesday night. They struggled mightily with command all night long, and Chapman took full advantage of it.
Adam Stacy went 3 innings. He only walked 3, but he got into 6 deep counts, hit 3 batters, and gave up 7 runs (6 earned) on 6 hits. On the flip side, Ricky Montalvo dealt 6 strong innings. He gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits with 6 Ks and just 2 walks.
With the 7-3 win, Chapman has put themselves in a position where no matter what happens in game 2 of the series Friday night, they are going to be in the driver’s seat for the region crown. They now hold a 1 game lead over Clinton, who they split with earlier this season. Clinton is in their final region series of the season now with the finale Thursday night with Woodruff at home. Chapman has their final series next week with Union County.
It is not likely Woodruff will split the series with Clinton. But that does not matter. Barring getting swept by Union (which is a possibility. The Jackets are playing good ball right now), Chapman should win the Region.
If the Panthers end up splitting and Clinton completes the sweep of Woodruff, there will be a tie. The tie would be broken by a playoff for 1st, according to Chapman head Coach Steve Fusaro.
We don’t have a team in the mix locally in region 2-4A, since Greer struggled a lot this year. They’re currently 2-5 in region, 2-8 overall at the bottom of the standings. But this one is between Eastside and Laurens. Eastside was beaten by Greenwood last week for their only Region loss when it appeared they were going to run away with it. That region will be decided this week.
Region 2-4A is currently being led by Spartanburg. The Vikings are now tied with Dorman at 4-1 in region play after the Cavaliers have taken 2 out of 3 from Byrnes with a couple of offensive explosions. Game 3 is Friday night at Byrnes.
Coming into this week in which Spartanburg is actually playing in the SC Diamond Invitational, Dorman and Byrnes had a shot to gain some ground while solidifying themselves in 2nd place. Dorman had not played but 3 Region games and were 2-1. Byrnes had a 4-1 Region record. The importance of the outcome of this series could not be understated. And the winner of the opener would have the advantage. That was Dorman.
Byrnes has a depth issue with their pitching with Gabe Rogers unable to pitch right now. So they had to go with Connor Kuhne on Monday night. Kuhne roughed his way through 3 innings where Dorman plated 7 runs without an extra base hit. Just a bunch of walks, singles, and fielders choice plays. They ended up using 4 other arms on the night, which in all honesty sets the stage for Dorman to sweep this series with their win in spite of a subpar pitching performance in game 2 last night, which the Cavs won in a slugfest 18-8 in 6 innings.
Dorman is not without the same problem. Beyond Hudson Lee, they lack a #2 arm. Brayden Parton got the start for Dorman in game 1 and pitched fairly well, before running into issues in the 5th inning. He issued back to back walks, an RBI single, and a 3 run blast (from Gabe Rogers) to make it 11-4 in favor of Dorman. From there, Dorman tacked on 3 more over the final 2 innings while Adams Faucett shut the Rebels down with 3 shutout innings (6 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hit). The Cavs took the opener 14-4 to take the upper hand in the series.
Dorman has a chance to jump Spartanburg if they complete the sweep Friday night. But if they don’t, the Vikings will hold a 1 game lead in the region with the City Rivalry series coming at the end of the season.
Before that, the Vikes have a 3 game set with Riverside while Dorman has Wade Hampton. This region is too far from being close to decided to give a scenario for winning it yet, but one thing is certain — it is going to be just as fun to follow as 2-2A and 3-3A.
Region 3-5A is Clover’s at this point. They are just continuing to rip their way through region play. The only team that had a chance to give them a fight was Boiling Springs, and they dropped the last 2 games of the series after winning the opener in dominant fashion.
The Bulldogs entered this week tied with Gaffney for 3rd. In spite of what that suggests, these 2 teams really are not close (no offense to Gaffney) in talent. This is a series where Boiling Springs could sweep. So far they have taken the series with a chance to sweep Friday.
Monday Tristan Smith was beyond dominant, throwing a complete game shutout with 17 strikeouts on 104 pitches. Offense gave him more than enough support as the Dogs won 6-0 at home. Wednesday night was more of an offensive slugfest as the Dogs still got the win on the road, but had to score 18 runs to do it. The final was 18-13.
Regardless of what happens Friday, the Bulldogs have solidified themselves in 3rd. A sweep would leave them a couple of games back of Nation Ford with 2 more region series to play. Boiling Springs has Fort Mill next week on a 3 game set while Nation Ford has no region contests until the face the Bulldogs in 2 weeks. Chances are very good that Boiling Springs will make the jump and end up 2nd in the region with the last place team coming up that they should sweep, and just needing to take 1 (but ideally should win the series) from Nation Ford.
If they don’t sweep Fort Mill, they will definitely need to take at least 2 from Nation Ford.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of this week:
Woodruff @ Clinton 7:30 PM
Spartanburg v Brookland-Cayce 5:00
SC Diamond Invitational
Greer Middle College @ Chesnee 6:00
Travelers Rest @ Greer 6:30
Dorman @ Byrnes 6:30
Gaffney @ BS 6:30
Chapman @ Broome 8:00
Spartanburg v Lexington 8:30
SC Diamond Invitational
Chesnee @ Greer Middle College 7:00
There is so much great high-stakes high school baseball left to be played. Regions are coming down to the wire. So get out and see some of these great teams before the playoffs get here.