FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence coach Derick Urquhart said Saturday his team might be due for a wakeup call.
On Sunday, Post 1 got it.
In the final round of the Palmetto Legion Invitational at American Legion Field, undefeated Excelsior (Minn.) built a 9-1 lead before walking away with a 9-4 victory Sunday night.
The loss ended Florence’s 11-game winning streak. Many of those victories were the result of gritty comebacks. That left Urquhart worried about what would happen if his team fell behind early against a team firing on all cylinders. That team turned out to be Excelsior (19-0). Post 1 allowed five unearned runs, committed three errors and had six battery mishaps.
“Our defense has got to get better. We’ve got to figure it out,” said Urquhart, whose team’s record dropped to 18-3. “Our defense let us down against a really good team over there. They have quality pitching, are solid 1 through 9 in the batting order. They’re a loaded team with 10 college players on it. That’s why they wanted to come down. They wanted to face some of the better teams in the Southeast. But unfortunately, we didn’t play our very best.”
Excelsior wasted no time in the first inning, delvering back-to-back RBI doubles off starting pitcher Robbie Jordan in the first inning and leading 3-0 going into the bottom of the third.
Florence then began to make a run at Excelsior with a Gage Weatherford double. After Weatherford scored on a McIver Wallace single, Wallace advanced to second on the throw home. But Wallace then attempted to steal third and was thrown out by Excelsior catcher Ben Stolar to account for the inning’s second out. Then after Pierce Watson walked and D.P. Pendergrass singled to put runners at first and second instead of loading the bases because of Wallace’s base-running mistake, Connor Kirkley flied out to right to end the inning.
Back-to-back Post 1 errors then started the sixth, and that sparked a four-run inning for Excelsior, which led 7-1. And in the seventh with Weatherford on the mound, Mike Sturek hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall to give his team a 9-1 lead.
“That’s easily the best team we’ve seen in a couple of years, in my opinion,” Urquhart said. “They’ve got the talent and pitching depth. They’ve got a chance to make a run to the World Series. You could look at them and tell that’s the type of team that they have.”
Post 1 tried to mount a comeback with an RBI single by Cam Galloway. After Excelsior changed pitchers, Florence’s Noah Carter hit a two-run double to narrow the deficit to 9-4.
But Owen Taylor’s flyout to center ended the game.
“Losing to a good team is not the end of the world,” Urquhart said. “We had some positives. We battled back at the end. But we let a couple of runs slip away. It should have been a closer game than what it was.”