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Rock Hill ousted, but finds humor in bad situation

By the end of the night, there wasn't much left to do but laugh, but credit the Rock Hill Post 34 American Legion baseball team for finding the humor.

The undermanned squad dropped a run-rule-shortened 18-1 decision to Irmo-Chapin Post 193 in Game 3 of the first round of the state playoffs, capping a sweep of the best-of-five series for the visitors.

"Hey, I gave up 10 home runs tonight, put that in the paper," pitcher Nick Caldwell cracked afterward, cutting up with teammates in the dugout.

Of course, when Caldwell scored Rock Hill's only run of the night in the bottom of the sixth (on Jeff Long's RBI single), a fan yelled hopefully "Here we come."

That kind of silver-lining search was rampant.

When third baseman Michael Hill moved to first base in the fifth inning (when common decency dictated they get Caldwell off the mound), one of the spectators asked Hill if he had ever played there.

"'Bout to," Hill said over his shoulder with a grin.

Likewise, catcher Desmond McCrorey, their last remaining receiver with Caldwell starting on the hill, was asked about his resume.

"Well, I did catch one game in high school," he replied. "But it was only two innings. That's why they've got the U next to my name, for utility."

That kind of patchwork lineup wasn't going to work against a hot-hitting Post 193 team, which crushed the ball throughout the series.

"When they hit 16 home runs in three games, there's not a lot you can do," Rock Hill coach Cody Strong said. "The way they were swinging the bats, there's not a lot anyone can do. I don't know that I've ever seen a team as hot as they are at the plate. They just don't swing and miss."

Irmo-Chapin hit seven homers Friday night, more than enough to extend the 2-0 lead they carried into the game after Thursday's was stopped after a half-inning.

Post 193 left fielder Steven Dowling hit two, giving him six for the series. He was 6-of-8 with four home runs and nine RBI in the two games at Rock Hill High, scoring seven. Third baseman Ryan Blanchard also hit a pair out Friday, with Alex Kirby, Nick Beline and Jake Hutchinson getting one each.

Of course, when the opposition has nearly as many home runs as the home team had players, it complicates things a bit.

With players scattered across the region because of other commitments, Rock Hill had just 10 players in uniform. Junior team promotion Josh Hamilton was the only one on the bench, and Caldwell, Long, Hill and McCrorey were joined on the field by Tyler Bowers, Brady Morrison, Dylan McCann, Jesse Brewer and Darren Whitesides to finish the season.

Strong shrugged when asked about the absences that hampered their chances, saying it was that way late in the season, when Post 34 rallied to force a tie for the League V title with a 10-5 record.

"When you're down to 10, you don't have a lot of options, but I'm proud of the guys we had for sticking it out in an unfortunate position," Strong said. "We won some games we shouldn't have late this year, and that was their effort, not me. We won those last five or six on will and heart.

"If you're lining up night in and night out with somewhere between nine and 11 guys, you're going to be at a disadvantage. But there's nothing you can do. I'll line up with the nine to 11 guys that want to play and give it whatever they've got."