When the American Legion Juniors baseball programs of Horry County reflect upon the 2017 season, respective early departures from the State Juniors Tournament – hosted by Spartanburg Post 28 – may not be the first memory.
Representing two of the eight-team state tourney field, both Aynor Post 81 and Horry Post 111 expressed “surprise” and “satisfaction” for reaching the double-elimination showdown that started this past Saturday at Historic Duncan Park, outside of downtown Spartanburg.
“We won eight of 10 games down the stretch leading into the state tournament,” Post 81 head coach Andrew Fox said after his 11-player squad was knocked out of the tourney on Monday – dropping an 11-0 mercy rule defeat against Aiken Post 26. “We hurt ourselves, but give credit to [a] good Aiken team. Unfortunately, we did not play Aynor baseball today.”
Just one day earlier, Aiken also ended Post 111’s season with a 5-2 decision – keyed by an estimated 390-foot, 2-run homer that easily cleared the 372-foot center-field wall at Duncan Park. “Their guy (Garrett Spires) just took advantage of a pitch we left over the middle,” said Post 111 head coach Jason Gore.
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“We were lucky to get a second chance at reaching the state tourney and tried to make the best of our opportunity,” Gore said after Sunday morning’s 5-2 Aiken loss.
In the American Legion League #2 playoffs, Aynor actually knocked Post 111 out of state contention, but Gore said his team received a slot in the state tourney after Waccamaw “did not have enough players” and Georgetown “forfeited against us for the right to make state.”
The first two days of weekend games, all at Duncan Park, featured a 9:30 and 11 a.m. start – followed by 4:30 and 7:30 games.
After posting a 6-4 victory over York Post 66 in the state tourney opener, Aynor drew its first loss on Sunday night – an eight-inning thriller that saw South Florence Blue advance with a 4-3 decision.
Post 81 rode its No. 1 starter Keegan Krasula to his “pitch limit” – forcing a reliever with the score tied at 1 with one out and the bases empty in the top of the eighth inning.
“I’m very proud of our guys, the reps we gained here (at the state tourney) will get our players and this program ready for the next level,” Fox said. “We lost to a very good 29-2 South Florence team.”
Krasula, who led Aynor (11-8) with five wins this season, scattered four hits while striking out seven against South Florence Blue. Meanwhile, Gage Richardson and Josh Duke led Post 81 at the plate.
Richardson went 3-4, scored and drove Aynor’s first run against South Florence Blue. Later, In the extra frame, Duke nailed a two-run double – giving Post 81 a brief lead before the final half inning.
Three consecutive walks and a hit batsman in the bottom of the eighth set the table for three unearned South Florence runs and its 4-3 victory.
In Post 81’s opening victory over York, Krasula led an 11-hit Aynor offense with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate that included two runs batted in, a run scored while registering two doubles.
Aynor’s game one starter, Drake Carroll, earned the victory with six innings before reaching his pitch count. Carroll tossed a three-hitter while striking out five Post 66 batters. The Post 81 hurler also went 2-4 at the plate with two RBI’s.
Richardson also had a big offensive day against York, going 3-4 with a run scored and one RBI.
The lopsided Aiken game saw Aynor strand eight runners on just five hits while suffering 5 defensive errors.
Post 81’s Legion neighbors, Post 111 carried a strong offense to its unexpected journey to the state tourney.
Gore praised his 18-7 Horry squad for having each player “hit over .300 and two over .400 for the season.”
In its opener of the state tourney, Post 111 posted 12 hits against Inman, but came up one run short after stranding 13 runners on base.