KINGSTREE, S.C. – Never mind that Kingstree’s season was on the brink.
It wasn’t the first time.
After winning a play-in game just to reach the Junior American Legion state playoffs, coach Tyler Boyd’s team trailed South Florence Blue 8-6 in the deciding game of Wednesday's second-round series. Before the final inning, infielder Joe Kellahan turned to Boyd.
“We’ve got this, no doubt,” Kellahan said.
Before SF Blue could record an out, Kingstree stormed to take a 9-8 lead – and the series.
“I feel the same way, too, that they’ll get it done,” Boyd said. “This team is older and stronger, and that gives them confidence when it really matters.”
As Boyd’s team prepares to face Horry at 10 a.m. today in the double-elimination main bracket in Georgetown, he is enjoying the ride.
“They’re excited,” said Boyd, whose team is 16-7. “We had to win that play-in game (6-0 win against Manning-Santee), and they have played their best ball since then. Every time we’ve had our backs against the wall, we’ve played well.”
Before eliminating a league runner-up in SF Blue in three games, Kingstree swept West Florence Gold, which won its league.
“We’ve hit the ball really well, and that’s been a big factor,” Boyd said. “But we’ve also thrown strikes on the mound. Pitching and hitting has gotten us here.”
In each of the series openers against WF Gold and SF Blue, Matthew Bazen (1.83 ERA) was the winning pitcher.
“He throws strikes. He doesn’t throw hard, but we can always count on him to throw strikes,” Boyd said of the right-handed All-Pee Dee selection from Johnsonville. “It’s just a matter of us playing defense.”
In Game 3 against SF Blue, a couple of Kingstree errors helped load the bases, but Kingstree – with one out – ended that game on a double play.
Left-hander Blaine McFadden (2.39) is the other primary Kingstree pitcher. Brandon Cook usually serves in the closer role and can start a Game 3.
E.J. Muldrow (16 walks) is Kingstree’s leadoff hitter, and McFadden bats No. 2 with a .426 batting average (six doubles, two triples and 15 RBI). Colby Newton (three strikeouts in 61 at-bats, .410 average) has a team-high 19 RBI at the No. 3 spot with three doubles and two home runs.
Cook (.373) hits cleanup with five doubles and 16 RBI. The No. 5 hitter, Dawson Chastain, bats .375 with five doubles and 15 RBI.
“(Chastain) is streaky, but he gets big hits late in the game when it matters,” Boyd said of Chastain, whose RBI single in the top of the seventh Wednesday tied SF Blue at 8-8.
There’s no need for a pep talk before the tournament begins today.
“I don’t have to say too much,” Boyd said. “We were a No. 4 seed, and we had to beat a No. 1 and 2 seed to get here. We had to beat two of the better teams in the state, already, just to get here. I just want our guys to keep doing what we’ve done.
“And that’s everybody believing in the other person to step up, no matter who’s up.”