Knowing this could be their last game of the season, Hartsville Post 53 played and looked relaxed in a 15-5 victory over Rock Hill Post 34 during Sunday’s American Legion baseball state tournament elimination game at Riley Park.
“We did well coming in knowing it’s win or go home,” Post 53 head coach Brad Boob said of the victory. “I told our guys we’re going to be aggressive and jump on them early, and we came with the right mindset”
Post 53, now 15-11 on the year, faces the winner of Chapin-Newberry and Spartanburg in an elimination game. Andrew Coker has been named a possible candidate to start but would be pitching on short rest since he threw in Thursday’s play-in game.
Hartsville took an early 2-0 lead after four innings of play then had a 5-run fifth and added eight runs over the final three innings pounding out 15 runs on 15 hits off five different Rock Hill pitchers. Wade Hawkins, who struggled just a week ago, led the team with three hits including four runs batted in.
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“The mentality of staying positive and understanding we’re a good ball team and can do the right things (helped Wade),” Boob said.
Offensively for Hartsville, Denton Lee and Austin White each had two hits. Matt Lynch and Austin Morris each contributed two RBIs. Jalen Durant, Lee, Harrison Hawkins and Dillon Turner each had a run batted in.
Post 53 starter Harrison Hawkins threw 5 1/3 innings allowing two earned runs on nine hits. He walked a batter and struck out one. Relievers Austin White and Matt Lynch allowed three runs, one earned in relief on five hits and combined to strike out two and walked three.
For the second straight game, Rock Hill was hurt by its own demise whether it was by mental or physical errors. Post 34, which closed its season with a 15-7 record, committed four errors and didn’t take advantage of its offensive chances. Twice Rock Hill had the bases loaded and less than two outs and only managed to pick up two runs.
Cameron Smith had three hits including a RBI to lead the Post 34 offense. Chase Watts, Garrett Rast, Cody Edkins and John Robbins each had two hits in the loss.
Post 34 managed to get on the board in the sixth as they loaded the bases with one out. Rast, Edkins and Robbins each singled for Rock Hill off Harrison Hawkins but scored two runs off Hartsville reliever Austin White. White allowed a bases loaded walk to Fuller Wilson and Smith earned a RBI groundout to make it an 8-2 game after six innings of play.
Watts hit a solo home run in the seventh to cut the Rock Hill deficit to 11-3 then in the ninth Post 34 added two runs on three hits and an error in the ninth. Watts scored on an error after doubling and Edkins earned a RBI after flying out short left field.
A wild pitch allowed Maliki Mack to score in the first then Post 53 to Post 53 took advantage of some timely 2-out hitting in the fourth. Harrison Hawkins doubled with two outs and advanced on a passed ball. He came in on Wade Hawkins’ RBI single to push their lead to 2-0.
Hartsville broke open the game scoring six runs on three hits and two errors in the top of the fifth. Marcus Spears hit a single and reached third on an error scoring Maliki Mack and Morris. After Casey Kelly was hit by a pitch, Lee hit a RBI double, Lynch walked to load the bases and Harrison Hawkins drew a bases loaded walk to make it a 6-0 lead. Rock Hill reliever Sadler Poe came in to pitch with the bases loaded but gave up a 2-run double to Wade Hawkins.
Mack scored on a wild pitch and Morris hit a 2-run double in the seventh for Hartsville. In the ninth, Durant had a RBI hit by pitch, Lynch had a 2-run single and Turner and Wade Hawkins each had a RBI single highlighting a 5-run ninth.