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Dorman Falls to Lexington in Upperstate

There are few things more dramatic than a playoff baseball game with a lot on the line, regardless of the level of the sport you’re watching. Think back to the 2016 World Series game 7 between the Cubs and Cleveland Indians. The title on the line between two hungry franchises/fanbases – one of which hadn’t won a championship in 108 years. The tension of that night was only made tighter by the fact the game went to extra innings and had a rain delay in the 10th.

 

While Dorman and Lexington were not playing for the world championship, these 2 storied high school programs were playing with a spot in the 5A state championship series at stake. The Cavaliers came into Wednesday night needing to win twice on the road – territory that though unfamiliar so far this postseason, may be exactly where this Dorman team wanted to be since they’ve thrived when they have had their backs against the wall all season long,

 

They started the season ranked 7th in 5A and picked to win the region. But as they got into region play, they started off 0-4 with series losses to Boiling Springs and Spartanburg. They were in last place and staring down the barrel of potentially missing the playoffs. They desperately needed a turning point, and despite the long odds and heavy adversity, the Cavaliers got exactly what they needed when they managed to salvage the finale with the Vikings.

 

Dorman went 4-0 in region and 6-3 overall to climb all the way from the cellar to 2nd place in the region 2-5A standings entering their final series of the season with the region-leading Byrnes Rebels. They needed an improbable sweep in order to win the region, and in the end suffered another setback. The Cavaliers were swept by Byrnes, dropping them from 2nd with a shot at winning the region all the way back to a tie with Spartanburg for 3rd – which by virtue of the head to head win, gave the Vikings the tiebreaker.

 

Dorman entered the district round as the 4 seed, and would have to go on the road and face perennial contender Blythewood, picking up a 7-1 upset win and following with a 9-5 victory at Hillcrest that secured them both a spot in the district final and the right to host it. They would end up taking on Blythewood again, dominating them from start to finish in an 11-3 win to advance to the upperstate round.

 

In the upperstate opener, they suffered yet another small setback at JL Mann, falling 3-1. But they continued to prove the old saying “a setback is just a setup for a comeback”. The Cavs rebounded with a 3-2 win over Dutch Fork and an 8-4 victory over JL Mann, ultimately setting up the showdown for the upperstate championship with the Lexington Wildcats Wednesday night.

 

The tension got 30 minutes to build up even more immediately as the start of the game was delayed by a lightning strike. That would be the first of 3 pauses in the early innings. Once things got going, Dorman managed to threaten right away, getting 2 on with 1 out. But, ultimately they were left out after Mitch Wilson struck out and Coleman Brown was robbed on a fly ball to right.

 

In an almost mirror image, Dorman starter Jackson Wyatt got out of trouble after issuing back to back singles in the bottom of the frame. He got the first out on a pickoff at 2nd before a stolen base and a walk got him right back into a 1 out mess. He would bounce back with a ground ball to 2nd and a strikeout to leave 2 in scoring position.

 

Lexington eventually did draw first blood in the bottom of the 2nd on a 1 out solo shot to left that was gone from the moment he made contact. They threatened again with a 2 out walk and a balk, but Wyatt got out of it again with a fielder’s choice 5 unassisted to send the game to the third.

 

After Dorman left yet another in scoring position, the Wildcats added on. Following a 1 out double on a fly ball that dropped just fair at the fence in the right field corner, they scored on a 2 out two-bagger off the fence in left just as lightning struck the same place twice, prompting a 35 minute hold. Following the delay, Bray Parton came out as the pitcher for Dorman and got to a 2-2 count before once again the alarm sounded.

 

That would thankfully be the last hold of the night, and from there the game moved at a blistering pace. Bray Parton managed to get through the next two innings with no damage done, but what he did was matched by Lexington’s Sophomore Brayden Studebaker. He mowed the Cavaliers down in order with lightning speed in those same 2 innings. However, Dorman finally answered the bell in the top of the 6th.

 

Palmer Hornick walked to start the frame and Clay Crossley got plunked to follow, setting up a Colton Earhardt single to left to finally get Dorman on the board. After that, Mitch Wilson just narrowly missed a 3 run homer to right, instead being held to a single off the fence to load the bases and getting Studebaker out of the game.

 

After the change, Coleman Brown grounded sharply to 3rd with the infield in, and would reach on the fielders choice, but that eliminated the lead runner at the plate for the first out of the inning, setting the stage for Aaron Sturgill to lift a sac fly to left that brought home the tying run. Campbell Whitener eventually grounded to short to end the rally, but the game had new life going to the home half of the 6th.

 

That life was short-lived. Following a leadoff walk, the next man up laid down a sac bunt that Bray Parton fielded and tossed just wide of 1st for an error, putting men on the corners. The next hitter lifted a sac fly to bring home the go-ahead run. The final blow of the night came on the very next pitch Parton threw as Lincoln Hill launched a 2 run blast high, deep, and long into the night beyond left field to stretch the lead to 5-2. That would hold as the final score, propelling Lexington into the state championship series.

 

“We were up and down and there were times where we wondered if we were ever going to figure it out. We were inconsistent and it seemed like we just couldn’t play well in all three phases. But something clicked for us in the playoffs. We started pitching well and playing good defense and getting timely hits and it all came together”, said Dorman Head Coach Jack Jolly of the Cavaliers’ rollercoaster 2024 season.

 

“This is the type of team that we thought we would have at the beginning of the season. It just took a long, hard journey to get there. Dorman baseball expects to be in these types of games, and this team has helped turn the ship around. I believe we’re headed in the right direction”, Jolly later added.

 

While the result of the game was not what they had hoped for, Jolly was also still quick to put  a bow on the season by acknowledging the contributions of the seniors and the team’s overall chemistry.

 

“I have to give a lot of credit to these seniors and to our leaders for sticking together, for not allowing the season to unravel when things weren’t going well. They hung in there. You can see by tonight how long they’re hanging around after this game that they truly love one another.”

 

Dorman finished the 2024 campaign at 18-14 overall, which despite the heartbreak in Lexington, many Dorman fans will likely take, given how much adversity they overcame to finally meet the expectations for both the season and their program.

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