TURBEVILLE, S.C. – It didn’t take long for Will McMillan to adjust his East Clarendon baseball team to Class 2A.
After the Wolverines won region the previous year in Class A, he knew pitching would be key.
“I think it’s about managing your pitching staff a little more and kind of getting the pitching staff developed and having more than two guys you can depend on,” said McMillan, the Morning News Baseball Coach of the Year. “You’ve got to have your three or four guys. In Class A, sometimes you could kind of ride two guys, which is what I thought we did the year before.”
Whatever McMillan did, it worked, as the Wolverines won this year’s Region 7-2A crown and beat out favorites Latta and Johnsonville.
“It obviously wasn’t easy. I think without a doubt this is the toughest region in the lower state,” McMillan said. “You had to earn those last couple of games against Johnsonville and Latta to be able to put it away.”
Knowing Latta had won the Class 2A state crown in 2018, McMillan had to mentally prepare his team.
“Latta was kind of the focus,” McMillan said. “We played them last year and got 10-runned both times. We saw Noah Henderson and Dylan Brewer pitching against us. They overpowered us. They beat us around the yard.
“And I think the guys saw that last year, and I told them, ‘Hey, this is what you’ve got to face in 2A. They’ll be in your region the next year, so it’ll count.’ They had that in the back of their mind once the season got going.”
Latta finished the region at 11-3, and East Clarendon and Johnsonville were 12-2, with the Wolverines clinching region because of run differential after they split in the regular season.
East Clarendon, which also split its regular-season series with Latta, then won district before being eliminated in lower state.
But McMillan, who played high school ball at Mullins under current Hannah-Pamplico coach Hal Lambert, would not necessarily call this season a complete success.
And he credits that to the program’s expectations.
“Last year we won region, won district and struggled in lower state. Same deal,” McMillan said. “That was really one of our things we preached in the preseason and harped on all year. It’s not good enough to say we won region and reached the playoffs and won district. We’re here to play for a lower-state championship and to try to make it to a state championship.”
And then, McMillan looked ahead.
“It didn’t work out that way this year. But as a team and as a program for these guys coming up, we kind of turned the corner,” said McMillan, whose team will return five starters next season. “To go 25-5 in 2A, we proved East Clarendon can do it. It’s getting to the point where that’s the expectation.”