Raiders come from behind to down Yellow Jackets, 8-6
Twenty-four hours, 15 runs, two victories.
That was the story of a pair of comeback playoff wins by Clinton and Laurens Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Clinton rallied from six runs down to beat Wren 7-6 Thursday night in the Class 3A District 2 playoffs. Not to be outdone, LDHS came back from the same six-run margin to beat host North Augusta 8-6 in the Class 4A District 1 playoffs.
Now both teams will have to be beaten twice to be ousted from the playoffs.
The Red Devils (20-3) are to host Pendleton Monday. Pendleton defeated Wren 15-7 Saturday to advance to the district finals.
LDHS (17-9-1) has earned the right to host the district finals, but will have to wait until Friday to do so with North Augusta, Greenwood and Indian Land still in the losers’ bracket with one loss apiece in the double-elimination format.
Laurens 8, North Augusta 6
NORTH AUGUSTA – Owen Pridgen’s grand slam in Wednesday’s playoff win over Greenwood gave the Raiders the cushion they would need in their win over the Eagles.
On a rainy Saturday night, his two-out single scored Mason Hamby and Zay Pulley to hand the Raiders an 8-6 lead and send No. 4-seeded North Augusta into the losers’ bracket with top-seeded Greenwood.
“I’ve sort of figured out my swing,” Pridgen said of his two clutch hits. “I’ve listened to my coaches and trusting everything – trusting the process.”
The junior missed all of the 2022 season due to a knee injury, but feels like he has worked his way back into form.
“Coming back was very hard mentally and physically, so getting here, so it’s just been trusting my strength, my rehab, the coaches – everything.”
Trailing 6-5 with one out in the seventh, LDHS senior third baseman Jack Yarbrough reached on an error, Pulley walked and Hamby singled to load the bases. Following a Jackson Martin strikeout, Ben Willis also walked to score Yabrough and tie the game at 6-6.
Pridgen, who was 1-for-3 at the plate, followed with a line drive to left field on an 0-2 pitch that proved to be the game winner.
Grayson Ledford nailed down the seventh to pick up the win. Ledford, a sophomore lefty called up to varsity at the end of the JV season, pitched four innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits, walking one and striking out two.
Yarbrough was one of three Raiders with two hits, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. Pulley was also 2-for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Hamby went 2-for-4 with a run scored and three driven in. Hamby is batting .453 over his last 14 games, which includes an 11-game hitting streak. He is also hitting .636 from the No. 2 spot in the order in the Raiders’ three playoff wins.
LDHS coaches said they wanted to get the game in on Friday despite a steady rain that delayed first pitch for about 45 minutes. With a busy playoff week, they believed the Raiders could take advantage of pitching depth.
But freshman LDHS starter Ryland Paxton struggled with his control early, walking five and hitting two batters in three innings of work. He also struck out six, and just three of the six runs charged to him were earned.
Five of those runs came in the first inning, three after a reversed call on a two-out pop fly to left field.
Evan Waldhauer hit a high pop fly to left field with the bases loaded. Hamby charged to make the catch and Waldhauer was called out by the third-base umpire.
The Raiders returned to the dugout, but following objections from the Yellow Jackets’ coaches and an umpire conference, the call was reversed. Hamby appeared to make a diving catch, but it popped free as he attempted to secure it.
North Augusta capitalized with three unearned runs and a 5-0 first-inning lead after the error.
“That’s what I love about this team the most – we never quit,” said LDHS head coach Tori Patterson. “We went down five early, and a lot of teams would pack it up, but we got two (runs) and then we got three, and they made an error there – and that’s one of the things this team does best is capitalize on errors. We made some errors there, but they didn’t put us away.”