High School Sports

On Your Mark: Area baseball teams find friendship key to their success

Nobles, Richardson speak after Aynor advances in Lower State AA baseball tournament

Caleb Nobles' base hit in the seventh allowed Aynor to walk off with a 4-3 win over Johnsonville in the first round of the Lower State AA baseball tournament.
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Caleb Nobles' base hit in the seventh allowed Aynor to walk off with a 4-3 win over Johnsonville in the first round of the Lower State AA baseball tournament.

Even as his team prepared for arguably its most importantly game of the season, St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio could be seen frolicking with his children, a simple gesture of assurance that no matter what is on his docket that he will make time for them.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise Centracchio has adopted a similar family-like atmosphere with his baseball team, allowing his players to be themselves – even if it is awkwardly quirky at times. And under his tutelage, the program has become one of the more consistent ones at the Class AAA level, and respected statewide.

Of the many Grand Strand area baseball teams starting the season with high hopes, three remain – Aynor, Carolina Forest and St. James. While the former two already have a win under their belts in the Lower State AA and AAAA tournaments, respectively, the Sharks will begin Lower State AAA tournament play Monday.

But the commonality between the three is greatly apparent whether on the field or off – these young men simply love being in each other’s presence.

The Blue Jackets are going to their second straight Lower State tournament after being Edisto 12-3. As a reward, they got to buzz their coach's head. Watch the first clip here.

For some baseball served as a common bond, bringing them together. Others have known each other since grade school games of T-Ball, in some cases beginning as respected rivals that in time developed into quite the friendship.

Among the chief links for the Aynor baseball team is its faith, exhibited each inning in a brief prayer by infielders behind the pitcher’s mound. Though now a practice of repetition, it also is an exhibition for whom they play for and depend on, for that matter.

“We pray every inning for the strength to play with the best of our abilities, and do it all for (Jesus’) glory,” said Aynor sophomore standout Jason Duke. “All that we do is because of Him.”

Aside from the team’s playfulness in the tightest of situations, opposing players, coaches and fans have taken a liking to the lack of selfishness by those on the St. James roster.

Following a game in which his effort was key in a Sharks win, senior center fielder Liam Bloom could not rave enough about his teammates and their contribution to his success as well as that of the team.

“Of course, it’s good to get some hits and make something happen,” Bloom said. “But I could go 0-for-4 if we can get the win. This team, these guys, we are a family. That’s what all this is about.”

Chock full of seniors who have been through the fire numerous times together, the ability to almost know what the other is thinking has allowed Carolina Forest to succeed this season, spending a large portion of the campaign ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA.

Even more so, their hunger to make this season special – not only for themselves, but their program and school – is something those both near and far could do themselves a favor to bottle up.

Each of these programs is so close to a state title, they can almost taste it. Their ability to remain together, even in the most tense of moments, will prove beneficial during this playoff run as well as life in general.

Brothers were built to provide support for a time such as this.

Of note …

Portland has made it a series, cutting the Golden State Warriors’ lead in their best-of-seven to 2-1 heading into Monday’s crucial Game 4. Stephen Curry has been listed as doubtful to play, again putting the onus on Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to lead the way in his stead. … In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pittsburgh has pushed the President’s Cup winners in Washington to the brink, this despite falling 3-1 in Game 5 to the Capitals. Aside from large portions of Game 3 and all of Washington’s Game 5 win, this series has largely been played within the confines of a phone booth. Getting that fourth win to advance to the Eastern Conference Final will not come easily for the Penguins, whatsoever. … Nyquist proved he was worth all of the notoriety being heaped on him prior to the Kentucky Derby, running away with the Garland of Roses in winning this past Saturday at Churchill Downs. Within moments of claiming the win, all eyes turned to Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Md, where the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown resides. Can he make it 2-for-2? … Following a sweep at the hand of Georgia Tech the previous weekend, the Coastal Carolina baseball team exerted some of its frustration on Liberty, scoring 10 or more runs in a three-game sweep of the Flames. The Chanticleers continue an extended road stretch on Friday, making the journey down to Charleston Southern for a three-game set with the Buccaneers. … After spending this past week on the road, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans return for a three-game series with Winston-Salem before again packing their bags for a four-game set at the Frederick (Md.) Keys.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @thejournalist44