Gaffney Post 109 starting pitcher Chandler Brooks got off to a good enough start in his team’s American Legion baseball state tournament game against Rock Hill Post 34 this morning, striking out the leadoff hitter.
It quickly went downhill from there.
Before the inning was over, Rock Hill had a 5-0 lead and never looked back as it went on to a 9-3 victory at Riley Park.
Post 34, which improved to 19-1 on the season and 2-0 in the tournament, faces 35-1 Florence Monday night at 7 p.m. in the game between the two final undefeated teams in the tournament. The Rock Hill-Florence winner advances to Wednesday’s championship.
“It’s always huge when you can do that (have a big first inning), especially when you’re the away team,” said Post 34 head coach Jeremy McCoy. “That just gives you a great advantage.”
After Brooks struck out Daniel Lipe, he walked Andrew Shipman. Cameron Smith and Davis Goodyear singled to load the bases. Jordan Starkes drew a walk to force in a run and Coby Boan hit a grounder in the hole that bounced off shortstop Damian Eubanks to allow two more runs to score and make it 3-0.
Brandon Banks singled to score Starkes and Boan came in on a Brock Rodgers groundout to make it 5-0.
“Chandler just didn’t have it in that first inning,” said Post 109 head coach Terry Wright. “He settled down and did OK after that. Sometimes that happens and you have to fight back from adversity.”
That made things much easier for Rock Hill starter Noah Gammons. The left-hander allowed just two runs in six innings of work, though he did allow six hits, walked seven and hit two batters.
“Noah pitched a great game for us,” McCoy said. “We had a pretty good scouting report on them even though we hadn’t played them. He pitched them the way we wanted him to do.
“He made the pitches he had to make when there’s traffic on the bases.”
Brooks had two scoreless innings before RH scored twice in the fourth to make it 7-0 thanks to two Gaffney errors.
Post 109’s best chance to have a breakthrough inning came in the fourth. Jacob Best and Donte Wade drew 1-out walks before Dawson Williamson singled to drive in Best and make it 7-1.
Gammons then walked Sylas Wood to load the bases. However, Post 34 catcher Davis Goodyear threw in behind Wood at first to pick him off for the second out. Gammons walked Bryson Ward to reload the bases, but Damian Eubanks flew out to end the inning.
“That (Wood getting picked off of first) really hurt us,” Wright said. “The throw beat him, but I thought they missed the tag. That cost us at least two runs.”
If Wood hadn’t been picked off, the walk to Ward would have forced in a run and Eubanks would have had a sacrifice fly instead of an inning-ending out.
Trey Prince came on in relief for the second straight game and threw three innings, allowing just one run.
Rock Hill had 10 hits with Shipman, Smith and Banks each picking up two. Banks and Shipman each scored a run and had an RBI, and Smith scored twice. Boan had one hit, two runs and three RBI.