Lexington, River Bluff, Dutch Fork return to Lower State baseball finals, Airport plays Thursday
Special to ColaDaily by Thomas Grant Jr.
The last time the Lexington High School baseball team had an opportunity to close out a playoff series, it lost two straight at home to archrival River Bluff.
On Monday, the Wildcats earned a second chance at redemption in the Class 5A Lower State final. They defeated West Florence 8-2 to win the District V final and will open at home against Wando Thursday.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from how last year ended and these guys are hungry and want to leave their own legacy and kind of flush what happened last year,” said Lexington head coach Brian Hucks, who picked up his 400th career win in the previous win against West Florence. “It’s a new year and it’s a new team and I’m proud of these guys. We’re getting better every game and that’s what I’m excited about and we continue to improve.
“Offensively, we’re really swinging the bats well right now and our pitchers were incredible in this district bracket. So, if we pitch like we’re capable of and we keep hitting, we have a chance to be pretty good.”
The Wildcats pounded out 14 hits against the Knights, three by Austin Pearce. He and five teammates each drove in a run and winning pitcher Jake Wisniewski struck out five and allowed six hits and two runs in six innings of work.
For the second straight year, Dutch Fork and River Bluff will join Lexington in the Lower State. The Silver Foxes defeated Summerville 3-1 to win the District VIII championship.
Price Alexander had two hits and Noah Jackson accounted for the team’s lone RBI in the second inning. The other two runs scored in the fifth and sixth innings were due to error.
Starter Rhett Richardson allowed five hits in 5 1/3 inning and Doug Webb struck out three and allowed just two hits to close out the victory.
The Silver Foxes will face a familiar foe in region rival and defending Class 5A Lower State champion River Bluff. After losing Game 1 of the District VII final to West Ashley 6-1, the Gators rebounded for a 3-1 victory in the deciding game.
The Gators defeated Dutch Fork in the elimination game and Lexington twice in the Lower State final to reach last year’s final. Currently, the three teams are 9-1 in the post-season.
“Region 5 is incredible and people who aren’t in this area don’t understand it until they have to play somebody from this area,” Hucks said. “And the teams are so well-coached and the players so talented that it really prepares you and we always talk about how iron sharpens iron and we feel like we’re prepared so anything we get in the playoffs because of the games in our region.”
Belton-Honea Path 6, Airport 5 (Game 1 – 9 innings)
Airport 8, Belton-Honea Path 3 (Game 2)
The Eagles rallied from a 4-run deficit in Game One, but were unable to hold the lead in the final inning.
The Bears then scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth and closed out Airport to stay alive in the Class 4A District IV final.
It was all Airport in the deciding game. A 5-run second inning was more than enough for starter Justin Allen and reliever Brandon Caughman who combined for seven strikeouts.
Parker Whittle went 2-3 with 3 RBI to lead the Eagles. Airport will open at home Thursday in the Class 4A Upper State against Wren.
The two teams, along with Dutch Fork, River Bluff and Lexington, competed in the 2018 Naturchem Invitational jointly held at River Bluff and Lexington. Airport won the tournament.
Gilbert 2, May River 0
Ryan Ouzts had two hits and picked up the save for Preston Price as the Indians win the Class 3A District VIII title to advance to the Lower State final.
Gilbert will travel to Region 5-3A rival Strom Thurmond to open the Class 3A Lower State.
Chapin 8, North Myrtle Beach 1
Thomas Harmon threw a complete game as the Eagles claimed the Class 4A District V title.
They will travel to Thursday
Bishop England 12, Swansea 2
The Tigers’ season ends in the Class 3A District VII final.
Chesnee 5, Gray Collegiate 1
The War Eagles’ season ends in the Class 2A District II final.
Airport 11, South Pointe 7
The Lady Eagles will head to Union Wednesday for the Class 4A District II final, needing two wins to advance to Upper State final.
River Bluff 11, Blythewood 1
The Lady Gators advanced to the Class 5A District VI final to face Summervile on the road Wednesday.
Dutch Fork 11, Carolina Forest 0 (6 innings)
Morgan Scott, Madison Stone, Hannah Putlock all had three hits and Stone, Putlock, Lauren Beatson and Israel Garcia all had two RBIs as the Lady Silver Foxes advanced to the Class 5A District VIII final. Scott struck out five and allowed just one hit for Dutch Fork, who will travel to Ashley Ridge Wednesday for the district title.