A big third inning at-bat with three big runs helped propel Orangeburg Post 4 to a 3-2 season-opening American Legion Baseball home win at Mirmow Field against West Columbia Post 79 on Tuesday evening.
Adding to the victorious formula was the pitching of three Post 4 hurlers, Austin Sandifer, Andrew Isgett and Noah Bearden.
It was a much better start to the season than in 2018, when West Columbia took a 6-1 win in Orangeburg.
"We showed heart, our pitching looked pretty good, our defense kept us in the game, but I just wish we were a little more consistent hitting," Post 4 head coach Dukes Isgett said. "I want to forget last year just as soon as I can; winning helps with that.
"We've got the kids. If we can just play ball like we should, we should be fine. We've got to work on the hitting."
Post 4 plays at home again on Friday, taking on Aiken Post 26 at 7 p.m. in a pool play game for the 15th-annual Post 1 Invitational Tournament hosted by Florence Post 1 on Saturday and Sunday.
"It's going to be a hot Memorial Day weekend, but we are looking forward to this tournament and getting a lot of our players on the field, playing baseball and having fun," coach Isgett said.
On Tuesday the pitching was solid, with Sandifer throwing the first three innings, allowing two runs on three hits, but striking out six batters. After Sandifer scored the go-ahead run, Isgett came on to pitch 3-and-a-third innings of 4-hit baseball, allowing no runs to pick up the win. From there, Noah Bearden came in from the outfield to pitch, allowing just a single hit, followed by two strikeouts, to end the game and pick up the save.
On offense, Post 4 was led by Sandifer (2-for-3, run), Will Rickenbaker (2-for-3, double) and Deuce Bailey (2-for-3).
West Columbia got on the scoreboard first, plating a run on a triple and a fielder’s choice in the first inning. Sandifer hung a change-up on a 1-2 count to the leadoff batter. Josh Wise (3-for-4, triple, 2 stolen bases, run score) promptly drove the ball to the right-center gap, bouncing it off the wall as he made his way to third base. Second batter Alex Pegues grounded out to second base, plating Wise.
Sandifer singled with two outs in the bottom of the first, but he was left stranded as the score remained 1-0, in favor of the visitors.
West Columbia used a similar strategy to score its second run in the second inning, with leadoff batter Austin Lafrage (2-for-2, double, run scored) starting things with a double that sliced down the right field line. From there, he took third on a bunt single from Pierce Nance (2-for-3, stolen base), before he scored one out later on a fielder’s choice groundout down the first base line. Sandifer got a strikeout to end the threat, leaving Post 79 up 2-0.
Orangeburg continued its early trend in the bottom of the second, with one hit and one runner left on. Deuce Bailey got a two-out single on a bloop to shallow right field, but was left stranded.
Post 4 made it onto the scoreboard in the third inning, batting through every player in the lineup with a little help from Post 79. Bearden opened the at-bat with a walk. He took second on a fielder’s choice. Then, on ball four to Skye Foster, Bearden stole third and kept going to home plate, after an errant throw into left field. Foster took second on a wild pitch and then scored on a single from Sandifer to shallow center. On the hit, Wise made a diving attempt to make the catch, but the ball kept rolling to the deepest part of the park, making it a 3-base error as Sandifer came around to score and give Post 4 the 3-2 lead. The inning chased starter Justin Allen (2-and-2-third innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 walks, 3 runs, 2 strikeouts) from the mound, as Chandler Sox came on in relief to get the last out, leave the bases loaded and end the scoring.
Post 4 also made a pitching change, as Sandifer and Isgett switched places on the mound and at shortstop.
Lafrage and Nance got back-to-back one-out singles in the fourth, but neither reached third base safely.
The final 3 at-bats for the visitors saw lost opportunities to even the score. Wise got a one-out single in the fifth, but Isgett ended the threat by starting a double play.
In the sixth, a single and error, followed by a no-out intentional walk, loaded the bases for Post 79. But, Isgett made the putout by fielding a grounder and tossing to starting catcher Bailey for the first out. Then Isgett helped his cause again by making the same play and starting a 1-2-3 double play that Bailey threw to first baseman Hanks Avinger to save the lead.
A one-out walk to the first batter Bearden faced was followed by a single from Wise. But Bearden settled in for the final two strikeouts to seal the win.
Allen shouldered the loss for West Columbia. Sox pitched 4-and-2-thirds innings, allowing just 2 hits and no walks, while picking up a strikeout.