Enquirer Herald

Junior Legion Post 66 baseball playoff run leads to state title game

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.

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.