FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence coach Derick Urquhart has seen his squad at its absolute best against Camden this season – and absolute worst.
Six errors in the Post 1 Invitational championship game at the start of the season resulted in an 8-2 loss to Post 17 – one of three defeats this year.
Fast forward to just two weeks ago, however, and Florence found itself on the dominant side of a 4-0 shutout against Camden.
“We played our worst game statistically and arguably our best game overall,” Urquhart said of the two matchups. “I think most of the year Camden was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the state and they’re loaded with college players.
“It’s going to be an extremely challenging test for us and we’re going to have to play a lot of games like the last one in order to beat them three times in a five-game series.”
That test begins Monday as Florence (30-3) and Camden (18-5) meet to determine who earns a berth in the Senior Legion state tournament at Columbia’s Segra Park beginning July 31.
The opening game is scheduled to take place in Florence at 7:30 p.m. at American Legion Field. Game 2 is in Camden at 7 p.m. Tuesday with the third game back in Florence on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
If the series goes longer, Game 4 will be in Camden on Thursday at 7 p.m. with the possible winner-take-all Game 5 scheduled for Friday in Florence at 7:30 p.m.
Post 1 turns to ace Anthony Hopkins on Monday and the left-hander aims to duplicate his success from July 8. Hopkins went six-plus innings and allowed no runs on just three hits while striking out six and walking two.
“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs as coaches if Anthony wasn’t our Game 1 starter,” Urquhart said. “He’s been throwing the ball really well. Yeah, we know he threw against Camden the last time, but that’s just kind of how the rotation fell. They’ve seen him, but we still want him to go in that opening game.”
Urquhart said Garrett Gainey will likely get the next home start in Game 3, with Game 2 still undecided at the moment.
“We went with (Rae Rae) McGirt last week, and he didn’t have his best outing, but his overall season is something we’ll have to consider,” he said. “Could be (Noah) Henderson, could be (Austin) Windham, could be (Timmy) Felder – we’ve got some options.
“We’ve still got to keep in mind that no matter who we use, we’ve got to keep quality arms in the bullpen that can come in and throw strikes.”
That will be especially key this series. Camden’s lineup is loaded with collegiate talent and goes 12 deep, Urquhart said.
“They’ve got guys throughout the lineup that have pop, so you don’t want to walk guys and then have one of them hit one over the fence,” he said. “So, we’ve got to keep the walks to a minimum and we’ve got to limit our errors.”
The Florence lineup, which has been solid all season, will face a different test as it has yet to face Post 17’s top pitchers, Urquhart said. Left-hander Justin Dorton (7-0) will be on the mound in the opener.
“We’ll play Game 1 and see what Anthony gives us, and if we have to go to a bullpen arm, we’ll do that,” Urquhart said. “The focus is winning Game 1 and we’ll go from there.”