At about 12:30 Sunday afternoon, Carolina Forest was wrapping up its three-game appearance in the prestigious Diamond Invitational with a win over White Knoll.
Within 30 minutes, the Panthers were on their way back from Columbia with something else on their minds.
“We wanted to try to make a playoff atmosphere because we knew the type of teams that were going to be there,” coach Jack Jolly said. “But we knew if we went 0-3 or 0-4, it would have absolutely no bearing on the playoffs. Sunday, as soon as that was over, all we talked about was getting back into the region.”
If that was the case, Carolina Forest’s approach with the most important – albeit lower profile-games of the year – continued to pay dividends. Jolly’s team capped off a sweep through the first half of the Region VI-AAAA schedule with an 8-3 win over Conway at home on Tuesday.
All five wins of those victories against region foes have come by a margin of at least five runs, and the team’s overall scoring advantage inside the division is a gaudy 33 runs.
Against the Tigers, it was more of the same.
Jakob Frishmuth picked up the win by throwing six innings while also contributing a solo homer and three runs scored. Dylan Roberts added a two-RBI single in the first and Patrick Orlando, who threw a perfect seventh inning to end the game, had an RBI and run of his own.
That type of onslaught is why the Panthers, last week announced as the No. 24 team in MaxPreps.com’s national computer poll, were included in that site’s separate top-50 rankings Tuesday morning. They are also No. 2 in the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association’s Class AAAA poll.
“They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen in our region in the 14 years that I’ve been here,” Conway coach Anthony Carroll said. “He’s got arm after arm after arm that he can run out there. They swing the bat really well at the top of the lineup and play pretty good defense most of the time. I think they’ve got a well-rounded club and deserving of where they are ranked.”
It is also a squad full of plenty of individual talent. Five Panthers have already signed NCAA scholarships, and scouts behind the backstops are becoming more and more prevalent, whether it was last week in Columbia or during regular-season games.
“There’s a little pressure on us,” Frishmuth said. “We just need to keep our composure and battle through it. … Those big tournaments, we try to get through those with as many wins as possible. After that, we try to focus on the region games and get ready for playoffs.”
Jolly said this year’s team is one of the three best he’s had at the school, and in terms of pitching and depth, it is the best. The compilation of talent presents a rare problem given the social media and everyday chatter swirling around his team.
But the Panthers’ coach said it’s a problem he’s just fine working with.
“Our focus is inside this fence. That’s all we can control,” Jolly said. “That’s my job – to make sure we stay focused on what happens inside this fence. That’s making sure we’re ready, focused and prepared to play region games.”
So far, so good.
▪ W - Jakob Frrishmuth. L - Frankie Edwards. Top hitters - CON: Hughes Long 2-3, 2 RBI; Gunner Britton 1-3, RBI; Brett Young 1-3, Run. CF: Jakob Frishmuth 2-3, HR, BB, 3 Runs, RBI; Hunter Baiden 3-4, 2B, Run; Dylan Roberts 1-4, RBI.
▪ Records: Conway 5-7, 1-4 Region VI-AAAA; Carolina Forest 13-2, 5-0.