Chris Stephenson, head coach of the York Junior Legion baseball team, knew the season could be something special when Post 66 began regular-season play.
“These kids have played together a long time,” Stephenson said early in the season. “They have championship potential when they are at the top of their game.”
Catcher Harrison Childers agreed: “We have a talented pitching staff that can make the difference.”
Post 66 proceeded to make an eyebrow-raising run in the Junior American Legion State Championship Playoffs, culminating in a 12-1 loss to host Florence in the July 23 title game.
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Post 66 had beaten Florence, the defending state champs 3-0 the night before, Florence’s first defeat in the eight-team playoff.
York also defeated Socastee 1-0 in an afternoon game the next day, while Florence received a bye to the title game, even though it had lost to Post 66.
“Our kids were exhausted in 95-plus-degree heat,” said Stephenson. “Our pitchers were tired.”
Assistant coach Keith McSwain also said fatigue was a factor. “They were waiting for us, rested and ready to go with their ace pitcher,” said McSwain.
Post 66 lost the first playoff game to Socastee 10-7, then defeated South Florence 3-2.
Next for York came a 2-1 win against Monks Corner, with John Moorefield throwing four solid innings and Ryan Gilbert finishing with three strong innings.
In the win against Florence, Gilbert pitched a two-hitter.
“We won the game with strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting,” said McSwain. “The kids played good fundamental baseball.”
Trent Alexander pitched a brilliant 1-hitter in the 1-0 win against Socastee.
“Their pitcher did well,” said McSwain. “It was a great pitching duel.”
McSwain said the Florence pitcher had a strong performance in the title game, throwing a two-hitter.
Alexander and Will McSwain had York’s two hits.
“Our kids did a great job in the state championship tournament,” said Stephenson. “We are proud of them.”
McSwain said the team put forth a gritty effort to get to make the title appearance.
“Our kids were the No. 1 seed in the upstate,” he said. “They defeated Florence, a team that had won six of the last eight Junior Legion state championships.”
“We had great support from the parents. Our team was well represented in Florence,” he said.