High School Sports

Gritty effort helps St. James push past Lakewood

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Sporting a mohawk carved up by the seniors of the St. James baseball team, Anthony Peck never felt uncomfortable.

The sophomore starting pitcher said he always has faith in his teammates, who were each sporting a unique and wild hairdo they got prior to Friday's game – part of a postseason tradition among the Sharks.

Peck struck out four in a complete-game effort and St. James came together to pick up a gritty 3-1 victory over Lakewood in the first round of the Class AAA District VII playoffs.

“I was kind of hesitant at first, giving the seniors razors and letting them go at [me]. But I trust these guys whether it be on the field or off, and we have fun doing what we love,” Peck said. “It’s been a good season. This is my first year on varsity and it was huge for me to step up and win for these guys. I think we have something special here.”

The Gators and Sharks were scoreless after two innings, and Peck tossed a 1-2-3 third inning before senior Jordan Fields scored on a double play to give St. James a 1-0 advantage.

I love this team; we’re a family. We just love baseball; it’s an amazing sport and we want to keep playing together.

St. James baseball player Jordan Fields

St. James kept the momentum going in the fourth as Fields drove in two on a single to put the Sharks ahead by three.

Fields said it was a combination of confidence and a good scouting report on Lakewood pitcher David Fray that allowed him to stay on top of it at the plate.

“We knew we were seeing a lefty [in Fray] and had a good understanding of what he threw coming in,” Fields said. “We know he likes to throw a lot of off-speed stuff and is a little wild and we took what we could.”

The Sharks committed two errors in the fifth inning, leading to Lakewood’s only run of the game.

Peck allowed just two base runners the rest of the way and struck out two. He gave up six hits, walked none and allowed just one run (unearned) in seven innings for an impressive playoff debut.

“We gutted it out. I was impressed with the way Anthony threw,” St. James coach Robbie Centracchio said. “We had some big double plays when we needed them and we just played good baseball. Anthony was serving up groundball after groundball and he had some big strikeouts late when we needed them. You have to tip your cap; he pitched a great game like he has all season for us.”

Said Fields: “Peck is amazing. Coming in, he was a new face to the program and he really fit in. He has a future here and he’s a great pitcher for us.”

Fields himself was making his playoff debut after missing last postseason with a hip injury and just wants to keep playing.

“It feels amazing playing in this kind of atmosphere; it’s my first time,” Fields said. “I love this team; we’re a family. We just love baseball; it’s an amazing sport and we want to keep playing together.”

Centracchio said St. James needed someone like Fields to step up and lead the way, and the outfielder capitalized.

“He's just been so aggressive for us at the leadoff spot,” the Sharks’ skipper said. “That was big for him today.”

With homefield advantage still in its favor, St. James will look to again hold serve as it hosts Aiken – which beat second-seeded Hanahan – on Monday.

“Playing at home, we’re just a very confident team. We worked really hard to be the No. 1 seed and win our region,” Centracchio said. “We get to have our home routine, take our [batting practice], have a good meal here before the game and it’s nice. It gives you an advantage playing at home, definitely. We hope to keep playing here as long as we can.”

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▪ W: Anthony Peck L: David Fray Top hitters: LHS: Lenny Gonzalez 2-3, Zach Tidwell 2-3. STJ: Jordan Fields 2-4, RBI, R; Parker Rabon 2-3, R..

▪ Records: STJ 18-7.

Max McKinnon: 843-626-0302, @mmckinnonTSN

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