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Dorman Uses Bats to Get Past Gaffney in Game One

The last time Dorman baseball was mentioned in one of these game recaps, the feeling around the program was that though they were not living up to their preseason hype/expectations, they were a win away from getting hot and rewriting the story of their season. The Cavaliers started region play 0-4, having dropped their first two series to Boiling Springs and Spartanburg. In the finale of the “City Rivalry” series, Dorman managed to get that proverbial monkey off their back  with a much-needed first region win that quite possibly could have been that turning point moment they were looking for.

 

Since that crucial moment, Dorman has gone .500, winning 3 of their previous 6 contests coming into this week with noteworthy victories over Oceanside Collegiate and River Bluff. But, no doubt that of those three wins, the biggest came this past Friday night when the Cavs hosted Boiling Springs in the rain-postponed finale of their series. The Bulldogs bats were hot early, going up 10-6, a lead they held until the decisive bottom of the 6th inning when the Dorman bats roared to life and hung a 5 spot to go ahead 11-10, which would end up being the final in yet another crucial region win for them. With back-to-back region victories under their belt, it put the Cavaliers into a tie with Gaffney for 4th in the region 2-5A standings at 2-4 and set the stage for a huge series that could potentially be for a playoff spot this week.

 

The series kicked off Monday night at Ronnie Sims Field in Roebuck with Freshman Connor Wells on the bump for the Cavaliers. Wells has a lot of upside as a young arm talent, but just like with any young pitcher, he also has plenty of room to grow. Take a step back in time with me to the first region series of the season – where he was the game one starter against Boiling Springs.

 

Despite five strikeouts, the Bulldogs worked his pitch count up, with 5 of the first 6 hitters he faced getting into deep counts in 5 or more pitch at bats. That came back to bite him as his command dropped off and he ended up walking the bases loaded and giving up a 2 out grand slam that all but sealed the deal for Boiling Springs. That was after his offense also staked him to a 2-0 lead on a no doubt homer from Mitch Wilson in the bottom of the 1st.

 

Hopping back into the DeLorean, this start was almost a mirror image, save for 2 details.

 

Once again, Wells breezed through the top of the 1st. Then, in the bottom of the frame, Mitch Wilson once again gave him early run support – this time in the form of a grand slam that really ended up being one of the key difference makers in this ballgame.

 

“Even if he is not getting hits or being productive at the plate, Mitch is a threat to hit a home run. People pitch to him differently, and that helps the guys batting in front of him and behind him. He is a difference maker in the lineup. But he is also a huge factor behind the plate. Our pitchers really like having him back there and he is just a solid player that makes a big difference on our team”, said Dorman Head Coach Jack Jolly.

 

The Cavaliers would add one more run on an RBI ground-rule double from Aaron Sturgill to take a 5-0 lead to the 2nd.

 

Wells tossed two more shutout innings, both of which he retired the Indians in order. But, deja vu – he lost his command as his pitch count began to climb.

 

In the top of the 4th, he walked three Gaffney hitters to load the bases. The next man up laid down a suicide squeeze bunt, breaking up the shutout, but in the chaos of the play, Wells hesitated for a moment and threw a wild one to first, pulling Aaron Sturgill of the bag for an E1 to keep the sacks full. He later walked Charlie Swofford, bringing in a 2nd run, which forced Jack Jolly’s hand.

 

“His (Connor Wells’) first three innings were lights out. He was in the zone with a good lively fastball. His fastball is hard to hit. It has good spin rate and good movement and he has a hard, tight breaking ball. It forces hitters to decide whether they are going to try and hit his breaking ball or his fastball. He was really good until the beginning of the 4th. We were trying to get him through the inning, but his pitch count got up a bit and he hit a wall and just couldn’t finish”, said Jolly.

 

Connor was taken down for reliever Cross Jenkinson, who walked in another run and allowed another to be tacked on to Wells’ line via a wild pitch. With momentum heavily swinging Gaffney’s way and a once 7-0 lead whittled down to a three run game, Jolly was once again forced to make a change to try and put out the fire.

 

Enter the hero.

 

Campbell Whitener took over for Jenkinson with the bases full and just one out. He struck out his first man and induced a 6-4 fielders’ choice on the next to escape the jam. Whitener went on to pitch the next 2 innings, striking out 2 more and surrendering just 1 earned run on 3 hits – enough to earn him the win.

 

“He was huge. Campbell has done that numerous times for us this year. I was trying to wait and get out of the inning so we could get him warming in the bullpen. But I went out and said ‘Campbell, I need you now.’ He told me ‘I’m ready. Let’s go.’ He did what he does and threw strikes. He has such good movement on the ball and keeps it down in the zone. That makes him tough to hit. It is huge for us to have someone that can come in a tough situation like that and pounce on them”, said Coach Jolly.

 

Dorman’s offense responded well to Whitener’s effort, complimenting him with a three spot in the bottom of the 5th on an RBI double from Noah McGarity and a 2-run single from Clay Crossley that put them in double digits. Palmer Hornick came on to pitch the 7th for the Cavs and surrendered a 2 out single up the middle to Gaffney Center Fielder Drew Medley. He bounced back with a strikeout to seal the 10-5 victory – Dorman’s third straight region win.

 

With the win, the Cavaliers move into sole possession of 4th place for the time being, sitting at 11-9 overall and 3-4 in region. Gaffney fell to 10-10, 2-5, but of course this series’ story is far from over. This was only chapter one of the novel. Wednesday night, the two will face off once again at Jerry “Jug” Wallace Field in Gaffney with first pitch set for 6:30 PM before returning to Roebuck’s Sims Field for the finale on Friday – also set for a 6:30 start.

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