FORT MILL -- Gaffney Post 109 took a 1-0 lead in the American Legion playoffs with a blowout at Fort Mill. Gaffney opened up a close game with a big sixth inning. They put it away with a bigger eighth to win 19-2.
Gaffney, 13-4 overall, led 2-1 through five innings. They batted around in the sixth, scoring six runs to take an 8-1 advantage. John Michaels had the big hit, a two-run homer.
Fort Mill, now 9-7, will travel to Gaffney today for Game 2 of the best-of-five series. Post 43 lost three of its last four regular-season games but still managed to secure the second seed in League V. Chester won the top seed by going 11-5. Rock Hill was third-seeded with an 8-8 mark.
Fort Mill was outscored 44-24 in the last four contests. The 19 runs allowed were the most the team has given up in a game this season. Rock Hill scored 18 at Fort Mill on July 10.
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Fort Mill coach Erik Baddeley will try to put this game behind him. He had few words to describe what he saw on the field last night.
"We didn't put any pressure on them. They are a good hitting team but we need to get ahead early and score some runs," Baddeley said.
Fort Mill had scoring opportunities in the three of the first four innings but came away with just one run. In the second, Alex Bebeau singled. Chris Honeycutt and Kyle Whitman walked to load the bases. David Flanagan produced a run-scoring single to left field to score Bebeau. Shane Whitman grounded into a third-to-catcher-to-first doubleplay. Michael Baker struck out to end the inning.
In the third, Post 43 loaded the bases again but failed to score. Kyle Hartley led off with a double. A walk and an error filled the sacks but a strikeout and a groundout thwarted the rally. In the fourth, Flanagan reached second base with one out and was stranded.
Fort Mill left six runners on over three innings, five in scoring position.
Shawn Thomas (2-4) threw well for five innings for Post 43. He had allowed two runs off three hits and a pair of walks.
But in the sixth, he walked leadoff man McCrae Norton who promptly stole second base. Michaels followed with a two-run homer to rightfield. A hit batsman, a couple of singles, a wild pitch, a walk and a double finally chased Thomas. He was tagged for eight runs off seven hits in 5.2 innings.
Gaffney figured out Fort Mill reliever Frank Mitlin pretty quickly. Bubba Wright homered off him in the seventh and Dylon Jolley took him deep in eighth. Gaffney batted around again the eighth. They sent 11 men to the plate to plate eight runs.
Michaels finished 4-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs. Wright was 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
Gaffney also had success on the basepaths, swiping five bases in the game. Three steals led directly to runs being scored.
"A few errors cost us some runs. Gaffney can hit but anyone can hit when you don't put pressure on them," Baddeley said. "We went to a 2-1 count on seven straight batters."
Gaffney coach Jeff Osment said his team was a little rusty to start the game. The team had a week layoff prior to last night's game.
"Hopefully we can continue what we started tonight," Osment said.
Gaffney is loaded with junior talent. Osment said he has the same team this year that went to the playoffs a year ago.
Fort Mill will go with Flanagan on the mound today at Gaffney. He has been the ace of the staff this year. He was used primarily as a pitcher this spring at Montreat College, where he recently finished his freshman year. He is 5-1 with 38 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched.
Gaffney will counter with right-hander Dustin Byars.
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