Just a few short months ago, Scott Streiffert told his Waccamaw softball team it had a chance to earn a trip deep run into the playoffs.
The Warriors would have to find a way through Region VIII-AA opponents Dillon and Aynor, and then they’d have to get lucky enough with seeding to have the potential to win a few games. Not until recent weeks did the coach think even still playing this week was a possibility. He continued to back up previously scheduled family trips for days instead of weeks, not knowing exactly when the season would end.
On Wednesday, Waccamaw’s surprise year came to a close with an 8-1 loss to Crescent in the Class AA state finals. The Tigers capped off their national-record 19th straight championship with a two-game sweep in the best-of-three series.
“We had the potential to be a really good team,” Streiffert said. “Last year, we were only a couple plays away from getting to Lower State. So I probably downplayed it a little at the beginning.”
He couldn’t do that late. As much as Wednesday’s lopsided loss hurt, Waccamaw wasn’t supposed to be in this position. Following Monday’s 3-2 loss in the series opener, the Warriors were still convinced they could win their second state title in four seasons.
Instead, the Tigers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and never let up.
It eventually led to Waccamaw’s season ending at 28-8 and the state runners-up medals around the necks of players and coaches.
“I’m so proud of this team,” senior Melaina Moore said after the loss. “We won the Lower State, and that’s a huge accomplishment. We won districts. It’s a great feeling. Crescent had their A-game tonight, and we didn’t. I feel like we could have beaten this team. We thought we had them from the get-go, and maybe that’s why we lost. But we definitely could beat them.”
Crescent and coach Gary Adams spent much of the year ranked at the top of the Class AA rankings. The Tigers then cruised through the district and Upper State tournaments, having won their three games entering the series by a combined score of 32-3.
They made sure their trip to the finals was much more productive than the 2010 trip in which Waccamaw won the state title.
“We hit the ball pretty well at times, put the ball in play,” Adams said after getting a seemingly routine water cooler bath. “We ran the bases hard and played good defense. We got out of a couple jams early there. … They’re a good team, and you just feel like they’re going to come back if we don’t make those plays.”
Crescent (25-5) did just that, especially after getting those early runs.
Waccamaw left the bases loaded in the second and then another runner in scoring position in the third. By the end of that inning, Crescent led 5-0.
There’s a possibility these teams will be among the favorites to return to the state title series next season. Both teams will return the majority of their starters.
Should that happen, it would be the fourth such pairing for the Class AA championship since 2009. And, for Streiffert, another series against a coach with un-matched success on the diamond.
“If you’re going to win, you want to beat the best team,” Streiffert said. “I really believe that. I think that made it a lot more special for us in 2010 when we beat them. They had beat us the year before and got the national record. I don’t know that the kids know a whole lot about that [Adams’ record]. But through the coaching circle, we understand what they’re all about.
“He’s been winning ball games and state championships longer than I’ve been here.”