In the playoffs, most teams usually have a visible sense of urgency when their backs are against the wall and they’re facing elimination.
However, Northwood Academy head coach Jerry Stoots didn’t quite see that out of his team Tuesday afternoon.
“It wasn’t very evident if there was a sense of urgency,” Stoots said about his team going into Game 2. “There was more urgency on the part of the coaches, I think, than on the part of the players. We just try to stay at an even keel and not get up too high for any wins or too low for any losses. We didn’t say anything any different. We didn’t stress it. We didn’t point it out to them. We just went out and played another game.”
After dropping the opening half of the doubleheader 4-1 to Orangeburg Prep, Stoots’ Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive by coming away with a 5-3 win over the Indians to force a decisive Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. today in North Charleston.
The Chargers put the first runs of the game on the scoreboard in the top of the second after Indians starter Hobie Dennis walked the first three batters he faced in the inning. A bases-loaded groundout by Drayton Clutters allowed Micah Deveaux to score the first run of the game. Two batters later, Garrett Jarrell’s RBI single to left brought in Drew Duncan, pushing Northwood’s lead to 2-0.
“We didn’t pitch particularly well to start with,” Orangeburg Prep head coach Al Hay said. “We walked too many batters, let their leadoff guy get on base. Then, they put some pressure on us bunting the baseball and different things. We covered the bunts pretty well, but we ended up walking guys that were trying to give us outs. You have to take an out when you can get an out.”
The Chargers had the bases loaded in four of the seven innings in Game 2 against the Indians, but they were only able to score runs in two of those innings.
Orangeburg Prep cut the Chargers’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third. Aaron Crandall’s 1-out triple to right was just what the Indians needed. Crandall scored during the next at-bat when Chris Brown grounded out to second. The Indians went on to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when Reeves Connelly, who reached on a leadoff walk, scored OP’s second run of the game on a fielder’s choice.
However, the stalemate didn’t last long as the Chargers regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning. Reliever James Shepherd walked three batters in the inning, including Dalton Craven forcing in Daniel Duncan to give Northwood a 3-2 lead.
Noah Hammond later scored in the sixth on a wild pitch, making it a 4-2 game.
“That was definitely a critical inning,” Stoots said. “Fortunately, we got another chance to put some offense together and got some runners on base. Fortunately for us, the boy walked in a run. That’s kind of been the story of our whole season. That’s happened for us quite a bit. I wish we were a little better offensively than we are. We just don’t have that bell cow that goes up there, puts us on his shoulders, drives in runs and takes the pressure off of us.”
Orangeburg Prep responded in their half of the sixth. Evan Graves’ 2-out single to right was followed by two Charger errors, allowing him to score, cutting the deficit to 4-3. In the end, the miscues proved to be too much for the Indians to overcome as Kris Collins, who doubled to left in the top of the seventh and reached third on a sacrifice, scored on a wild pitch to extend Northwood’s lead to 5-3.
For Northwood, having momentum on their side at their stadium will be key today as they vie for the opportunity to take on Hammond in the next round of the SCISA Class 3-A playoffs. But pitching will be a major concern for the Chargers when they welcome the Indians to their field. Likewise, OP will also have their concerns regarding available arms to field on the mound today. But more importantly, they’ll need to light up the scoreboard if they hope to make the trip to Hammond later this week.
“We’ve got to score some runs,” Hay said. “We scored four in the first game, but that started on an error by them. We didn’t really kill the ball today.
“We had some hard hit balls, but we’re not really putting hits together. We’re getting one hit an inning and that kind of thing. We’ve got to get two or three hits an inning and try to score some runs.”
Game 1 notes
Orangeburg Prep 4, Northwood 1
The Indians scored three runs in the bottom of the third including one on an error and two on an RBI double by Graves in the third. Graves, who went 1-for-3 on the day, later tacked on another RBI in the top of the fifth to help his cause on the mound. Graves struck out seven and allowed one hit, a solo home run, to come away with the win. Chris Brown was 2-for-2 in the win for the Indians while Shepherd and Dennis each went 1-for-3 to support the winning effort.
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