5A: Northwestern vs. River Bluff
Games: begin Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at River Bluff. The second game will be at Northwestern next Tuesday. Third game - if necessary - to be determined.
Path to the finals: Northwestern required four games to win District 4 but rarely struggled in winning the Upper State title in three contests by a combined 18-2. River Bluff won District 8 in three games and shut out Summerville 12-0 to open the Lower State tournament. The Gators then lost to Lexington 10-7, but battled back to Wednesday night’s Lower State final, beating the Wildcats twice to advance to the state finals.
Is there a favorite? Northwestern, which was preseason No. 1.
What’s Northwestern’s strength? Pitching. The Trojans have four quality starters, one of which, Wesley Sweatt, was convinced to become the team’s closer. The Trojans also are experienced with nine seniors.
What about River Bluff’s? Experience. The Gators’ 10 seniors were founding members of the young school’s baseball program and have been credited with helping the team deal with postseason hurdles encountered during the last two weeks.
Previous finals experience: Northwestern lost in the 2014 4A finals to Sumter, the Trojans’ only trip to the state finals previously. River Bluff is playing in its first state championship series.
River Bluff players to watch: Sr. INF Aaron Adams (College of Charleston signee), Sr. INF/P Patrick Manley, Sr. P Victor Kelly
4A: South Pointe vs. A.C. Flora
Games: begin Saturday at A.C. Flora at 2 p.m. The second game will be next Tuesday at South Pointe.
Path to the finals: South Pointe has kept it interesting for fans. The Stallions had to beat Aiken twice on the road in the wee hours of the morning to win District 3, before knocking off Greenville and North Augusta twice, the latter with a last-inning comeback, to advance to the finals. Flora has outscored its opponents 56-10 in reaching the championship.
Is there a favorite? A.C. Flora, which is playing in its fourth state championship series in the last five years.
What’s South Pointe’s strength? the Stallions have an excellent team vibe and chemistry and they’ve showed continually that they don’t collapse when mired in a bad spot. That gumption will be valuable against a very strong Flora program.
What about A.C. Flora’s? is offensively explosive, as the Falcons have shown this postseason. They’ve also been there and done it, a definite advantage over the Stallions, championship rookies.
Previous finals experience: South Pointe is playing in its first state finals. Flora has played in eight previous championship series, winning five.
South Pointe players to watch: Sr. C Bo Taylor (Coastal Carolina signee), Soph. P Ty Good, Sr. 3B Stephen Thompson (Navy signee), Sr. P Daniel Lipe, Sr. 1B/P Spencer Bala
A.C. Flora players to watch: Sr. OF Coleman Pope, Soph. P Caleb Speedy, Sr. P Charles Chapman, Soph. INF Leighton Long
1A: Lewisville vs. Lake View
Games: begin Saturday in Richburg at 6 p.m. Game 2 will be at Lake View.
Path to the finals: Lewisville knocked off region foes and fellow top-3-ranked teams Lamar and McBee in the Upper State to reach the championship. Lake View and Hannah-Pamplico went late in the night after H-P beat Lake View in the first game of the Lower State championship, but the Wild Gators rebounded to win the second game and reach the final.
Is there a favorite? Each team lost in the Upper and Lower State finals last season and have more than a handful of state titles in their trophy cabinet. The favorite is probably Lewisville, but, like all of these matchups, it’s not by much.
What’s Lewisville’s strength? The Lions have championship experience after losing to Latta in three games in 2015. Trey Keels and Drew Colvin were starting pitchers in two of those games as sophomores and five players total started for the Lions. A handful of Lewisville players also played in this year’s 1A basketball state championship, which the Lions also lost. Something has to give, right?
What about Lake View’s? The Wild Gators put pressure on opposing defenses, especially once they get on base.
Previous finals experience: Lewisville has played in eight state finals, winning six state titles. Bennie McMurray led the Lions to five championships in an eight-year period, before Billy Keels won the sixth in 2010. Lake View has played in 10 state finals, winning eight state titles. The first came in 1939, before a run of five straight from 1997 to 2001.
Lewisville players to watch: Sr. P Trey Keels, Sr. C Alex Reed (Brunswick Community College signee), Sr. INF Andrew Culp, Sr. P Drew Colvin
Lake View players to watch: Sr. P Brent Herlong (North Greenville signee), Sr. INF/P Nick Collins (USC-Lancaster signee)