Prayer has been known to move mountains, or at the least settle butterflies the size of eagles buzzing in one’s stomach.
Handed the ball in Aynor’s second round playoff matchup Saturday against Edisto, the weight of the moment almost was too big for sophomore pitcher Jason Duke to bear.
Yielding a run in the first inning, a simple conversation with the Almighty helped calm his spirit – and his pitching from there on reflected the change.
“I can’t lie, there was a little bit of nervousness before the game,” the Aynor pitcher said. “But I put my faith in God and left everything to him. Before every inning, we say a prayer at the mound ... Without (God), none of this is possible.”
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After finding trouble in the opening frame Duke was rarely threatened thereafter, his pitching and a solid day at the plate by his teammates helping the Blue Jackets to an 11-1 victory over Edisto.
They had some errors, but we capitalized on their mistakes. The kids came out with great intensity today and ready to play, and put themselves in a great situation.
Aynor baseball coach Chad Sarvis
The win moves Aynor a win from qualifying for the Lower State tournament. It also ensures that the District VIII-AA final will be played at Wayne Reaves Memorial Field, its opponent needing to win twice Wednesday to eliminate the Blue Jackets.
“It’s always good to have that Monday rest and save pitching,” said Aynor baseball coach Chad Sarvis. “You can also go back to work, and a team has to come here and beat you twice. For any team, that’s a tough task. But we’re happy to be where we’re at and playing good baseball.”
Said Walt Richardson: “(Sarvis) has always talked about getting ahead and making a team beat you twice, and we’ve put ourselves in that position.”
Edisto threw the first shot, though, a single by Benjamin Hughes in the opening frame bringing in Jordan Rickenbacker to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
However, it was an advantage that would not last. In the bottom half of the inning, Aynor would pound out three hits and use a pair of Edisto errors to answer with seven runs of their own.
A bases loaded double by Duke did the most damage, bringing in three runs and providing the Blue Jackets with a comfortable lead.
“They had some errors, but we capitalized on their mistakes,” Sarvis said. “The kids came out with great intensity today and ready to play, and put themselves in a great situation.”
Aynor would tack on runs in the second and the fourth, the latter courtesy of a Ridge Richardson home run. Control issues by Edisto reliever Hunter Williams allowed the Blue Jackets to score two more in the fifth, closing out the game in five innings.
Now, the team awaits the result of Monday’s elimination game between Edisto and either Lee Central or Battery Creek. One thing is for sure, though – Aynor will not be resting on its laurels.
“We’re going to stay at it and go hard at practice,” Ridge Richardson said. “We’re not finished yet.”
▪ W: Jason Duke L: Dillon Jackson Top hitters: EHS: Jordan Rickenbacker 1-for-2, R; Benjamin Hughes 1-for-2, RBI. AYN: Jason Duke 1-for-2, 2B, 3 RBI, R; Holden Nobles 2-for-3, R; Ridge Richardson 1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI.
▪ Records: EHS 13-11; AYN 17-4.