FLORENCE, S.C. – The 27-3 record now means little to Florence Post 1 coach Derick Urquhart.
After winning four state championships in seven years, the standard is set. Now that a possible fifth championship is in the team’s sights, anything less won’t do.
The lower state’s top seed, Post 1 – after a first-round bye – hosts Lexington in Monday’s Game 1 of their best-of-five series at 7:30 p.m. at American Legion Field.
“You throw out all the records,” said coach Derick Urquhart, whose team has won 11 consecutive league titles. “We’ve got to win three before we lose three to move on.”
A series win would advance Post 1 to the next best-of-5 series against Camden or Orangeburg. And after that, the state’s remaining four teams will converge at Columbia’s Segra Park to play in a double-elimination bracket to determine the state champion.
Although the state runner-up also advances to the Southeast Regionals in Tampa, Fla., there’s nothing more Post 1 wants than another state title.
And Urquhart likes the chances of his team, which has since avenged two of its losses recently against Camden and Sumter.
“I think we’re playing our best ball of the year right now,” Urquhart said. “We’re playing our best ball at the right time of the year. And at the end of the year, this is where you want to be.”
With a deep and talented pitching rotation and lineup that batted .342 before Friday’s 10-0 ictory over Sumter, Urquhart simply hopes his team can continue its momentum.
“We’re having good at-bats,” said Urquhart, whose team won state championships in 2012, ’14, ’16 and ’17 and was the state runner-up in ’13 and ’15. “When we ask guys to bunt, they get the job done, and when we ask for hit-and-runs, they’re doing it. And we have over 50 stolen bases, which is the most our team has had in years. And we’re playing as a team.
“Anytime you bring a team together, anytime you have eight or nine different high schools represented on one team, it’ll take a while for that team to jell together. But we’re at that point, now.”
Lead-off hitter D.P. Pendergrass led the team with stolen bases (18 out of 20 attempts) before Friday, and he will remain the leadoff hitter Monday against Lexington.
Korique Rainey, meanwhile, has batted in the No. 2 spot the past couple of weeks and had had four doubles.
“He’s had some good at-bats,” Urquhart said of Rainey. “The biggest thing is his on-base percentage has been jumping up. He walked a good bit, has been hit. And he can handle the bat really well. He’s got his batting average over .300 and on-base percentage over .500. We feel like he’s our best option right now.”
Will Hardee, already the owner of two legion state championship rings, bats third and is followed by Noah Carter.
Anthony Hopkins (6-0, 1.65 ERA), meanwhile, will start Game 1 on the mound, followed by Rae Rae McGirt (3-0, 1.29) for Game 2.
“We’ve got a bunch of quality arms, but those two have kind of separated themselves in our opinion, as far as throwing strikes and getting outs and strikeouts,” said Urquhart, who added Austin Moore has worked himself into the closer spot.
Despite those impressive Post 1 statistics, including wins last week against Camden, Wilmington and Sumter, Urquhart again forgets all that.
What really matters is what happens through Aug. 2.
“Lexington is a quality team,” Urquhart said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to play like we did this past week.”