ORANGEBURG — Thoughts of déjà vu understandably popped in Orangeburg Post 4 coach Frank Leysath’s head Tuesday night at Mirmow Field.
For the second straight night against Rock Hill Post 34, Orangeburg jumped out to a seven-run advantage. Even as Post 4 increased its lead to 10 runs, Leysath remained uneasy given the events from 24 hours earlier when Post 34 rallied in the final three innings to take Game 1 by one run.
“When I saw (we were up seven runs), I said we need to get another run on the board,” he said. “Yeah, it didn’t take me long to think back to last night. I feel like we let one slip away last night.”
This time, a more enthusiastic Orangeburg effort coupled with an untimely ejection for Rock Hill allowed it to coast to a 12-1 win in six innings.
Post 4 pounded out 10 hits, led by Hobie Dennis’ three RBIs, and pitcher Chris Sweatman struck out seven and allowed three hits to even the best-of-five series.
The game ended with one out in top of the sixth after Post 34’s Ethan Neely was ejected by the homeplate umpire. While neither Leysath nor Rock Hill coach Mike Scott confirmed the exact reason for Neely’s ejection, his departure left already shorthanded Rock Hill (7-6) with only eight available players.
Unable to continue at full strength, the game was immediately called in Post 4’s favor.
“I had used all my players,” Scott said. “The rule is if a player is ejected and you cannot continue with eight. So I guess the proper statement would be is that I used all of my players and (Neely) was ejected and we had to end the game at that time.”
All seven runs came in the first inning when Post 4 (9-8) sent 13 batters to the plate. It started with one hit as Noah Cason reached base after getting hit by Post 34 starter Colton Pagoota and eventually scored when second baseman Nathan Turner mishandled an Evan Graves’ grounder for an error.
Orangeburg loaded the bases with two outs when Dennis lined a two-run single to the outfield. A passed ball by Pagoota allowed another runner across homeplate, followed by consecutive bunt singles from leadoff hitter Aaron Crandell, which resulted in an RBI, and Cason that made it 6-0.
Another wild pitch by Pagoota brought home the final run in the rally. An RBI single by Will Gee off Neely in relief extended the lead to 8-0 in the bottom of the second.
In the bottom of the fourth, Dennis drove in his third run of the game with a double. He advanced to third base on the throw from the outfield and scored on a wild pitch by Matt Hill, the fourth Post 34 pitcher used in the contest.
Pagoota ended Sweatman’s shutout bid in the fifth. He led off with a single, stole second and managed to reach homeplate after catcher Dakota Way’s errant throw to third base.
Orangeburg added two more runs in the bottom half of the inning as Crandell scored on Cason’s single and he reached home on Way’s fielder’s choice. Any chance of a Rock Hill comeback was quickly cut short by the game-ending ejection, leaving Leysath to reflect on the missed opportunity from the night before heading to Game 3 at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Rock Hill.
“We didn’t play with the enthusiasm and the intensity that we did tonight,” Leysath said. “We started with it last night, but somewhere along the line, it just went away. And that’s the thing that I challenged them about tonight was ‘Look guys…and I think we can play with (Rock Hill)…you’ve got to play every inning, every out, every pitch like it’s the last one’ and we did.”
“I’m hoping tomorrow night we can get ahead, get a little momentum on our side and some of our kids that are really good will shine and, hopefully, have a different outcome,” Scott said.
Orangeburg 12, Rock Hill 1
WP – Sweatman; LP - Pagoota
Belton Post 51 opened a best-of-three playoff in the American Legion junior playoffs with a 9-5 win over Rock Hill Post 34 at Rock Hill High School.
Game 2 of the series will be at Belton at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Rock Hill will host state tournament for juniors at Rock Hill High on July 20-24
Belton 9, Rock Hill 5
Austin Todd (WP) Josh Rogers (6) and Matt Reese. Fuller Wilson, Conner Edkins (6) and Landon Yeager. WP - Todd; LP - Wilson.
Leading hitters – Matt Reece (Belton) 2-4; Fuller Wilson (Rock Hill) 1-3, Bo Taylor (Rock Hill) 1-4