South Aiken’s season comes to an end
AIRPORT 8, SOUTH AIKEN 2
The circumstances were different this time, but the result was the same. Airport jumped out to an early lead and pulled away in the fourth inning for an 8-2 victory against South Aiken in Saturday’s elimination game in the Class AAAA Lower State Tournament.
It was the second time in as many years the Eagles eliminated the Thoroughbreds (19-8) from the postseason.
“Today, we just didn’t put a full game together. The bats didn’t come alive, defense was a little shaky, but we stood in there and kept fighting,” South Aiken head coach Michael Baker said. “We redirected ourselves several times to focus and lock back in. We just weren’t able to get over the hump. I hate it for these guys. Obviously we had higher expectations than stopping here.”
Airport got to starting pitcher Tanner Mills in the first inning, scoring two runs to set the tone. After adding another run in the second, the Eagles blew the game open with five runs in the fourth inning.
Baker gathered the team to try to calm it down for one final push, but Airport’s relievers held on for the victory.
“Just telling them to relax and lock it in a little bit more, and we did. It just wasn’t something that was going to push us over the edge,” Baker said.
Leadoff hitter Corley Cheeks was 2-for-2, and Jesse Sanders was a perfect 3-for-3. The tandem accounted for five of the T-Breds’ seven hits. South Aiken loaded the bases with two out in the sixth but was only able to add one run.
The senior-heavy South Aiken team, which went into the postseason as one of the favorites to contend for a state title, will look drastically different next season. Baker said the 10 seniors have provided a blueprint for the program going forward, however.
“I wouldn’t trade those guys for anyone in the world. I loved having those 10 guys,” Baker said as he fought back tears. “Just wish we could’ve done a little bit more to keep playing for those guys. That’s a good group of young men. Those guys are going to be good fathers, good husbands, they’re going to be great in the workforce, they’re going to be great overall community members. There’s noting else I can say besides I’m proud of all their efforts.”
Midland Valley 5, Hilton Head Island 1
Midland Valley will host the Class AAAA Lower State championship on Wednesday night after winning on the road Saturday at Hilton Head Island in a winners’ bracket game.
Brenden Moyer struck out seven batters in five innings and had a key seventh-inning RBI. Seth Richardson pitched the final two innings and struck out four batters.
Joseph Johnson went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Kohl Fulmer drove in a run in the seventh for the Mustangs (23-6), who will host either Airport or Hilton Head Island on Wednesday needing just one win to advance to the state championship series.
Bishop England 5, Strom Thurmond 3
Strom Thurmond fell on the road in a Class AAA Lower State winners’ bracket game. The Rebels will host Gilbert on Monday in an elimination game, with the winner heading to Bishop England on Wednesday needing to win twice to reach the state championship series.
Wagener-Salley 2, McBee 1 (4th inning)
Wagener-Salley’s Upper State Tournament softball opener against McBee was halted Saturday in the bottom of the fourth inning with the War Eagles holding a 2-1 lead. The game will resume at Wagener-Salley at 6 p.m. Monday.