After some Whiffle ball work with his dad on Sunday, Cameron Smith beat the baseball all over the park Monday night during Rock Hill Post 34’s 7-4 win over Union Post 22.
The Whiffle ball, with its unpredictable mid-air wobbles, had a key effect on Smith’s batting approach during the two teams’ American Legion playoff second round series opener at Rock Hill High School.
“It’s crazy; it works,” said Smith, a Northwestern Trojan. “Makes you keep your eye on the ball.”
On a sauna-like evening, Rock Hill’s nine-hole hitter, Smith, was 3-for-3 with three RBI. No. 8 hitter Chance Montgomery was nearly as good, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a double.
“The guys are just solid one through nine,” said Rock Hill coach Mike Scott, who also commended his corner infielders and outfielders for their defensive work.
Union, which beat Lexington 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs, wasn’t so effective with its sticks. The visitors stranded 13 base-runners, which peeved coach Tommy Ford.
“You got a lot of guys on and we just can’t hit the ball,” he said. “The lefty, he wasn’t throwing hard. You’ve got to hit the ball to win. I thought the pitching was good enough. You’ve got to hit back against people in this league.”
Rock Hill, which swept Easley Post 52 3-0 in the first round last week, scored once in each of the first two innings on Monday. Trent Autry reached on an error in the bottom of the first, advancing to second with a head-first slide after the centerfielder took his time corralling the ball. Garrett Rast followed with a single that scored Autry from second; he managed to avoid the tag at home for a 1-0 lead.
The hosts doubled the lead in the bottom of the second. Montgomery doubled to the warning track and Smith brought him in with a bloop RBI for a 2-0 advantage.
Union stranded five runners in the second and third innings combined, but finally broke through on Rock Hill starter Will Chitwood in the fourth with two runs. Two walks and two errors tied the game at 2 all headed to the bottom half of the frame.
The tie didn’t last long, Rock Hill scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth. Cody Edkins bobbled a single over the pitcher’s mound and Drew Patrick followed with a single. Smith came through again, looping a double into left field foul territory, allowing Edkins and Patrick to score standing for a 4-2 lead.
“It’s always a great opportunity to be up there,” said Smith afterward. “I don’t think they take us as seriously because we’re the bottom of the order, but I’m glad that we came through tonight and I hope we continue to do it the rest of the week.”
True to the whipsaw nature of the contest, Union responded with two runs to tie in the top of the fifth. Jason Taylor and Michael Todd Harris led off with singles and David Burress reached on an error that scored Taylor to make it 4-3. Jacob Roper then got on base to load the bags and Charles Johnson’s sacrifice fly tied the score 4-4. Chitwood got a pop-up and a ground-ball to end the inning before any further damage was inflicted.
Rock Hill couldn’t get anything going in the top of the sixth, before Stuart Hodge took Chitwood’s spot on the mound in the bottom of the sixth. He sat down the visitors in order after allowing a leadoff hit.
Scott’s bunch took advantage in the bottom of the sixth, reclaiming the lead. Edkins singled and advanced on Patrick’s sacrifice bunt. Montgomery came through, ripping an RBI single to make it 5-4 to the home team. Rock Hill got another insuring run in the seventh. Autry crushed a double to open the inning, Rast singled and Colton Pagoota brought in Autry with a deep pop-fly to make it 6-4.
Rock Hill tacked on a seventh run, ultimately unnecessary, in the bottom of the eighth. Chase Williford singled and his Chester High School teammate Trent Autry singled him home to make it 7-4, Rock Hill’s 16th hit of an offensively productive night.
Rock Hill 7, Union 4
Will Chitwood (5), Stuart Hodge. Jason Taylor (7.6), Jimmy Johnson. WP- Hodge; LP- Taylor. Leading hitters: Union- Larecus Hughes 2-5. RH- Garrett Rast 2-5, RBI; Chance Montgomery 2-4 RBI, 2B; Cameron Smith 3-3 3 RBI, 2B; Trent Autry 3-4, 2B, RBI; Cody Edkins 2-3, BB.
Records: Union 18-8; Rock Hill 13-3.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T