Waccamaw baseball coach Jeff Gregory admitted that his squad could have been a little better in the regular season.
But now, Gregory believes the Warriors are reaching their full potential.
Waccamaw jumped on Andrews for four runs in each the first two innings to set the tone, and pitchers Forrest Powell and Levi Almond combined for a shutout as the Warriors took down the Yellow Jackets for an 8-0 win Thursday in the Class AA District V playoff opener.
“We’ve had some ups and downs. We played really well at times this year,” said Gregory, whose team is ranked No. 7 in Class AA. “We came in here with a 16-8 record and, for most teams, that’s a great season. For us, we were a little shy – about four games – of where I thought we should be. But we’re starting to click.”
Powell struck out five, allowed six hits, no runs and walked two across 4 1/3 innings to receive the win. He was also 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run scored at the plate.
After replacing Powell in the fifth inning, Almond finished the game and prospered. He struck out seven, while holding Andrews to just one hit in 2 2/3 frames.
“He threw well,” Almond said of Powell. “You could tell he started to get a little tired; everything started to go up [in the zone] a little bit. I was glad to come in and help him out a little bit.”
Powell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first inning, which gave Waccamaw a 1-0 lead. Right fielder Daniel Rourk followed with a two-RBI single, and shortstop Jarrett Montgomery had a sacrifice fly as the Warriors took a quick 4-0 lead.
Left fielder Luke Montgomery hit an RBI double and later scored when designated hitter Alex Altman was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and second baseman McKinley Grooms and Powell each had an RBI single to give Waccamaw an 8-0 advantage.
The Warriors had just one hit and two base runners the rest of the night, but the team’s defense never let up and didn’t commit any errors in the contest.
“It was a big confidence builder and it would’ve been nice to put them away earlier than we did, but we got the job done. It was a nice win,” said Almond, who went 1-for-2 with two runs scored. “I was glad to come out and hit the ball well. We did let up on the gas a little bit, but it was good to come out here and have a nice start to the playoffs.”
With the first test of the postseason down, Waccamaw will travel to play Barnwell – which took down Whale Branch 12-0 Thursday – in the second round of the District V playoffs Saturday.
The Warriors have some history with Barnwell, beating the Warhorses twice last postseason in the district playoffs.
Gregory just hopes the Warriors will keep up the strong play.
“We were hoping to not have to use two pitchers tonight, but lately we’ve been playing good defense and we’re starting to hit a little better. I’m hoping that Saturday it will continue,” Gregory said. “... I feel good about getting the win, and not putting ourselves in a hole. Obviously, we have a tough test ahead of us. I’m sure [Barnwell is] looking forward to us going down there.”
▪ W: Forrest Powell L: Jeremy Rufus Top hitters: AND: Bryce Johns 2-3; Demarre Moore 2-3; Caleb Stone 1-2. WAC: Powell 1-2, 2 RBIs, run; Almond 1-2, 2 runs; Daniel Rourk 1-2, 2 RBIs, 2 BB; McKinley Grooms 1-4, RBI..
▪ Records: Waccamaw 17-8, Andrews 10-11.