Apparently Waccamaw, Lake City and Aynor simply cannot get enough of each other.
Tied at season’s end atop the Region VI-3A baseball standings, it took the third tiebreaker to finally separate the clubs and settle their respective playoff seeding.
“It really was symbolic of how everything went in the region this year,” said Aynor baseball coach Chad Sarvis. “There were no nights off, every game was tough. But it is those games that prepare you for the playoffs, where every game becomes tougher as you go along.”
Each facing their own tests at the district playoff level, the Region VI-3A tri-champions each navigated their way to this week’s Lower State 3A tournament. Waccamaw travels Thursday evening to the Charleston-area where it will face top-ranked Bishop England, while Aynor will match wits for the third time this season with league foe Lake City.
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“One thing is for sure, it is better than making (the nearly three-hour trip to Gilbert),” Sarvis joked. “But mainly, we’re just blessed to have this opportunity, and hope we can play good, clean baseball and come away with a win.”
The baseball clubs each finished with identical 7-3 records in conference play. However, the league’s tiebreaker situation leaned in the direction of Waccamaw as it’s No. 1 seed, with Lake City and Aynor falling in line at second and third.
We’ve had our ups and downs, but as a team I feel we’re finally starting to show how well we can play.
Aynor baseball coach Chad Sarvis
Barely tested, Waccamaw breezed its way to a District VI-3A title, its second in the past three years. The Warriors outscored their opponents Timberland, Wade Hampton and Strom Thurmond by a count of 16-3 in the district playoffs, earning a shutout in two games.
As for Lake City and Aynor, they needed an extra game to punch their tickets to the Lower State tournament.
Hours after taking it on the chin in a 14-3 loss to Swansea, Lake City swiftly reversed its fortunes to claim the District VIII-3A crown by beating the Tigers 6-4.
Mother Nature intervened in Aynor’s District V-3A final with Gilbert, allowing the teams to complete game one on Monday— an extra-inning affair that saw the Indians pull out an 11-9 win — but halting play in the second. The teams resumed play Tuesday evening, with Seth Ward’s second inning blast the lone score for the Blue Jackets in a 1-0 win.
It is the second straight district championship for Aynor, last year’s playoff run resulting in a state championship. After seeing some of the moxie his team exhibited in its series with Gilbert, Sarvis wonders if his team is playing its best ball at the perfect time.
There were no nights off, every game was tough. But it is those games that prepare you for the playoffs, where every game becomes tougher as you go along.
Aynor baseball coach Chad Sarvis
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but as a team I feel we’re finally starting to show how well we can play,” he said. “Our pitchers are going to throw strikes and the guys behind them are going to play behind them. We’re also hitting the ball, especially in the clutch. It also helps having been there before and know what it feels like (to win it).”
As for Waccamaw, it cruised largely without its ace’s best stuff. When the first pitch is dealt Thursday night, it will have been a week since the team’s ace Jaret Montenery took the mound.
In his last appearance, the Winthrop commit allowed one hit in three innings of work, yielding three runs — only one of which was earned. Fellow pitchers Reed Edwards and Josh Monroe each went the distance without giving up a run, with Miller Brinson also picking up a win during the district playoffs as well.
“With (Montenery) on the mound, (Waccamaw is) almost unbeatable. They are really a state-championship type of ball club when he pitches,” said St. James baseball coach Robbie Centraccio. “Sure, there is a drop off from Montenery from him to the rest of the staff. But if the rest of the staff is able to pitch well, they will be tough to beat.”
So will Lake City and Bishop England.
The Battling Bishops (19-8) finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in Class 3A, according to state baseball coaches. Last year, they finished as Lower State runner-up to Aynor.
As for Lake City, it quickly made itself at home in Class 3A after dropping down a rung due to realignment by the S.C. High School League (SCHSL). The Panthers are 22-6 coming into Thursday’s Lower State tourney opener, led by a pair of North-South baseball all-stars in Jalen Barr and Vince “Bill” Hanna.
Can’t forget about Green Sea Floyds
A tough region also has reaped bountifully for Green Sea Floyds.
Running roughshod over its three opponents by a score of 27-1 in the District V-A playoffs, the Trojans easily advanced to the Lower State tournament.
“Pretty much, before the season this was one of our goals,” said Green Sea Floyds baseball coach Derek Martin. “So to accomplish it, it really meant a lot to our ball club. Hopefully we can continue the run.”
A pair of familiar opponents await them there, as league foes Lake View and Hannah-Pamplico also earned tickets.
“You really just hope that (region play) helps this time of year,” Martin said. “I’d venture to say we have one of, if not the toughest region in Class A. I think having us, Lake View and Hannah-Pamplico in the (Lower State) tournament it kind of validates that point.”
Branchville — which will travel to Green Sea Floyds for both teams’ Lower State opener — of Region V-A won the final bid.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
Waccamaw at Bishop England, 6 p.m.
Aynor at Lake City, 6:30 p.m.
Branchville at Green Sea Floyds, 6 p.m.