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Boiling Springs Wins Steve Sanders Tourney

In accordance with tradition in Spartanburg County, the 2024 high school baseball season kicked off this weekend with the annual Steve Sanders Tournament. This year’s tourney featured 14 teams from across Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, Cherokee, and York counties at 4 host sites including such typical baseball powers as Boiling Springs, Hillcrest, Blue Ridge, Chapman, and Broome.


The weekend culminated Monday night in the championship games at Woodruff’s field – a changeup from Duncan Park where the finals traditionally have been held. In the first game of the night, Jim Everhart Bracket winner Blue Ridge took on Bill Metcalf Bracket champion Hillcrest in the third place game, with the Rams knocking off the Tigers 7-1.


The Tournament championship featured a matchup of two foes from the same region – the Eddie Cole bracket champion Boiling Springs Bulldogs and the Dean Jones bracket champion Gaffney Indians. Both teams went 3-0 through pool play, with Gaffney having beaten Broome 5-4, Union County 5-4, and Blacksburg 4-3. Boiling Springs’ road to the championship game was characterized by offense – and a ton of it.


The Bulldogs defeated Greenville and Chesnee on Friday, knocking off the Red Raiders 8-3 and the Eagles 8-1. In their lone contest on Saturday, the bats stayed hot as they took down Hillcrest 9-8 to punch their ticket to Monday night.


Boiling Springs is a team that entered this season with a lot of question marks. After making a run all the way to the 5A upperstate championship last season, they graduated several key pieces from that squad such as Jackson Cole, Luke Compton, Hudson Wilson, Jackson Reel, Corben Childers, and Rylee Douglas. This year’s squad, while talented, is loaded with guys that have limited varsity experience. You would not have been able to tell that from how they fought at the plate all weekend – especially in the championship game with their backs against the wall.


“We got some guys that don’t have varsity experience. They are good players and are gonna be very good by the time they leave here. We are gonna have some growing pains. Today we stunk it up for 6 innings. That is due to lack of experience. We didn’t make plays. We had 11 walks and a hit by pitch and just gave them way too many free bases”, said Boiling Springs head coach Jeff Lipscomb.


The Bulldogs and Indians plated a run each in the 1st inning and remained in a deadlock until the bottom of the third. Gaffney DH Brady Smith started the inning with a single off Boiling Springs starter Luke Morrison, kicking off a rally in which they sent 11 men to the plate and scored 5 runs on 4 hits, compounded by 2 Bulldog errors. The Indians added on with 2 in the bottom of the 4th, cashing in a leadoff double from right fielder Garrett Moss on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and scoring again on a sac fly from left fielder Jace Bradbury, giving Gaffney an 8-1 lead.


“I just told them to keep plugging away. Their pitcher had thrown 5 innings. So, we were gonna take a pitch until he threw a strike. It worked. He got behind and when he left some pitches up, we hit him. When they made a pitching change, we were all over their reliever. We are a good hitting team, but we just have to stay with it”, said Lipscomb of his message to the team when they were down.


They did a good job of ‘plugging away’. Boiling Springs finally found a little life at the plate in the top of the 5th, Bulldog second baseman Kai Lee led off the frame by laying a bunt towards third that third baseman Scout Gilfillan threw away, allowing Lee to reach. Landon Stevens followed it with a single, and wild pitch put them both in scoring position with nobody out. After back to back pop ups, Chansen Cole delivered a clutch 2 RBI double to left to cut the lead to 8-3 heading to the 6th.


The 6th inning ended up deciding the game. The Bulldogs had been stringing together big innings all weekend and you couldn’t help but feel like they were due for one. Noah Ezell led off with a single, sparking a rally where 8 straight hitters reached base. The Bulldogs would go on to leave the bases loaded, but sent 12 to the plate and scored 6 runs on 5 singles, a walk, and 2 fielders choice plays to take a 9-8 lead.


BSHS added on in the top of the 7th when Kai Lee drew a leadoff walk. He took 2nd on a sac bunt and 3rd on a sac fly, eventually scampering home on a ball in the dirt to make it a 2 run game. Emory Horton and Chansen Cole shut the Indians down in the last 2 frames to help complete the 10-8 comeback victory and clinch the tournament championship.


Emory Horton earned the win on the bump, pitching 1 shutout inning of relief with a walk, a hit, and 2 strikeouts while Cole earned the save with a walk and a K in his lone inning of work. Cole was also the leader at the plate, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs.


“Chansen is one of our best leaders. He is a three year letterman. He has experience and has played all over the infield. The young guys look to him for leadership and answers a lot of times. He has played a lot of travel ball and he is committed to play for Newberry College. We moved him to 1st base this year and I think we are better defensively with him there. He has also come a long way with his bat:, said Lipscomb.


Besides Cole, Landon Stevens contributed in a big way, going 2-3 with a pair of singles, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Justin Dawkins, Kai Lee, and Titus Hutchins also tallied an RBI each.


Gaffney was led by Left fielder Jace Bradbury, who went a perfect 3 for 3 with an RBI. Center fielder Drew Medley went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, and right fielder Garrett Moss went 2-4 at the dish with a pair of runs scored. First baseman Ethan Harvey and shortstop Sam Smith also logged an RBI each.


With the Sanders Tournament in the books, Boiling Springs will turn their attention to the regular season opener against the Woodruff Wolverines – the first game of a home and home set starting Tuesday, March 5th at Woodruff with a 6:30 first pitch. The series concludes Friday at Bulldog Park, also slated for a 6:30 start. Gaffney will play three games that week, starting a 2 game set with York at home on Tuesday at 7:00 and wrapping on Friday at York at 7. The Indians will also play Union County on Wednesday at Timken Sports Complex at 6:00.

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