MANNING – With the epic 3-game state championship series Laurence Manning Academy and Wilson Hall played to close out last season, it seemed only fitting that the two rivals open SCISA Region II-3A play against one another.
Friday provided the first encounter of the year and lived up to the billing – with a familiar ending for Swampcat fans.
Four LMA pitchers combined to allow five hits and one unearned run and that, coupled with a few key hits and a Wilson Hall miscue, provided all the support the Swampcats needed in a 3-1 victory at Tucker Belangia Diamond.
Laurence Manning is 8-2 on the year and 1-0 in region play and will travel to Florence Christian on Tuesday. The Barons fell to 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the region and will play host to Orangeburg Prep on Tuesday.
“With the experience that we have coming back and the pitching staff that we have, we’re built for these type of games,” LMA head coach Barry Hatfield said. “When we throw strikes and play defense, we usually put ourselves in position to win.”
That was evident in the first inning as the Barons got back-to-back hits to lead off the game against Swampcat starter Braydon Osteen. However, the right-hander settled down to retire the next three batters and get out of the jam.
It was a continuing theme most of the night as LMA hurlers worked themselves out of trouble on a few different occasions. Osteen pitched around a leadoff hit in the second inning and Ryan Touchberry, who came on in relief, stranded two WH runners in scoring position in the top of the fourth with the ‘Cats leading by a run.
“We don’t really panic in those type of situations,” Hatfield said. “We had (an error) early on that allowed them to get a run, but we came right back and retook the lead.”
The flipside to that was a night of frustration with runners in scoring position for the Barons. Wilson Hall was 0-for-8 with the only run scored coming in the third on an LMA throwing error from the catcher to the mound after a pitch.
“We never really got the hits when we had guys in position,” Barons head coach Adam Jarecki said. “You’ve got to take advantage, and we didn’t do that, especially early. You’ve got to have a sense of urgency about getting those early runs in, especially in a game like this against a good team.
“We just didn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”
Charlton Commander wound up taking the loss for Wilson Hall despite going the distance. He allowed three runs, two earned, on nine hits with no walks and one strikeout.
“Really proud of Charlton,” Jarecki said. “He threw a great game. He was really starting to get more command of his pitches as the game went on. If we had tied the game up (in the seventh), I was going to send him back out there.”
LMA got its first two runs without hitting the ball out of the infield. Trailing 1-0 in the third, Morgan Morris led off with a grounder in between third and short that wound up going for a hit. Taylor Lee followed with a perfectly placed bunt down the first base line to put two on, and then Osteen put down a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line to load the bases.
Buddy Bleasdale followed with what looked like a tailor-made double-play grounder. But after the out at second, the throw was wide and the ball bounced away from Drew Talley at first and into the stands to plate an unearned run and put LMA up 2-1.
The Swampcats never relinquished the lead – thanks in large part to a great play at the plate in the top of the sixth. A passed ball gave WH’s Corbin Bruce the green light to try to tie the game up and score from third, but the throw back to LMA pitcher Jake Jordan was in time as Jordan made the swipe tag for the final out of the inning.
“Jake’s a very good athlete and he just makes a great play right there coming from the mound,” Hatfield said.
The play loomed even larger as the ‘Cats tacked on an insurance run in their half of the sixth. Brent Jordan connected on a 1-out single and two batters later, pinch hitter Riley Nettles came through with the big 2-out RBI to put LMA up 3-1.
Bobby Crisp shut the door on the game with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.