Two months ago, it wasn’t clear the Murrell’s Inlet American Legion program would amount to much this summer.
Post 178 and coach Thomas Sheehan have made their time together count.
Comprised of 15 players from Socastee and two from St. James, Post 178 is preparing for the state’s Senior Legion state tournament, in essence the elite eight for South Carolina. It already defeated two quality teams in a pair of best-of-five series in the last two weeks in the opening rounds.
On Saturday, Murrells Inlet gets to see how much more it can shake things up.
“Absolutely, we have a shot. We can hang with anybody,” said Sheehan, also a volunteer with the Socastee High program. “… The difference between the season and the playoffs for us, instead of playing with good teams, we started beating them. We broke through. Once we saw we could win these games, it took us to a different level.”
The series wins each of the last two weeks have been about as dramatic as possible.
Murrells Inlet dropped its first two games to Hartsville before winning Games 3 and 4 to even it up. Then, in Game 5, Post 178 trailed 9-4 in the eighth inning before a nine-run rally sent it to the second round.
Against Camden, Sheehan’s team was down two games to one before another eighth-inning rally forced Game 5. On Friday, Post 178 then punched its ticket to Sumter with an 11-8 victory that clinched the series.
The fact this team was still playing was a bit of a surprise to everyone, including Sheehan.
The post did not have enough players try out to field a Junior Legion squad. And even 17 players on a Senior Legion team is relatively low.
“I knew that we were going to be a stretch,” Sheehan said. “A lot of them are just names to have on there in case I need someone to play. I have a core of 11 guys I can count on being there the majority of the time.”
It’s a continued product of showcase tournaments and other travel leagues dipping into the Legion rosters. Just the same, the group of Braves and Sharks is making it work.
Some familiar names from the two high school programs are continuing to stand out. St. James’ Drake Martin and Nick Del Bianco have joined the likes of Socastee’s Finn and Devin Melko and Buck Bacot. The team has also received a boost from football standout Sam McKinney – who will play that sport at Wofford starting this fall – first-year pitcher Chase Blackmon and right fielder Wesley Lane, who is starting even though he’ll be just a sophomore.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament begins Saturday at Sumter. It will be the team’s second trip there in three years.
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.