The Myrtle Beach boys soccer team has put together a nice string of victories against Socastee in the past two and a half seasons.
All the same, those six straight victories have aged Seahawks coach Jason Himmelsbach some. Of those six wins, five have come by one goal or in penalty kicks.
On Tuesday, when the teams – both ranked among the top three in Class AAA – meet again at Myrtle Beach, Himmelsbach expects another close one.
“It’s going to be a money’s worth type of game,” he said in advance of the game pitting his No. 3 Seahawks team against the No. 1 Braves.
“I think the Myrtle Beach-Socastee rivalry takes precedence over the numbers and the rankings. The last couple years have been some classic, memorable, down-to-the-wire finishes. Both teams want to win, and that kind of trumps whatever numbers are next to the teams.”
Myrtle Beach (5-1) suffered its only loss of the year to Lexington (ranked No. 11 in Class AAAA) in the finals of the Cats Kick Cancer Kickoff Classic earlier this month. Senior forward Mason Lewis has already racked up 13 goals and five assists after finishing last season with 19 and six.
All five of the Seahawks’ victories have come against Class AAAA opponents.
Socastee, meanwhile, has also climbed up the ranking after starting the season 7-0. The Braves have four victories over teams from the state’s largest class, as well as a pair of victories over region opponents St. James and North Myrtle Beach in non-region games.
Tuesday’s game, though, isn’t the end-all of the Region VII-AAA slate. In fact, Socastee’s first region contest came Monday night against St. James (ranked No. 9 in Class AAA).
The quick turnaround was a reflection of several area teams having to adjust schedules to accommodate field improvements taking place this fall.
Carolina Forest, Conway, North Myrtle Beach, St. James, Aynor and Green Sea Floyds all received proper funding through Horry County Schools to replace outdated or worn-down surfaces. Those teams were relocated to various venues off-campus.
It has worked out in Myrtle Beach’s favor. The Seahawks will actually play two key “road” region matches – St. James on April 9 and North Myrtle Beach on April 24 – at home at the team’s recently renovated field next to Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
That could be a boost to a team fighting to come out on top of what is one of the state’s best regions. The first-place team will ultimately earn the possibility of no fewer than three home playoff games.
“One of the Region VII teams will have a shot to go to Columbia,” Himmelsbach said, referring to the location of the state finals. “There’s four or five of them that can win. Winning what I believe is the best region in the Lower State should give you plenty of confidence and experience.”
Updated state rankings
The Region VII-AAA boys soccer teams weren’t the only area teams ranked among the state’s best in the most recent polls.
The Myrtle Beach girls team sits at No. 5, while the Waccamaw boys (No. 4, Class AA) and Waccamaw girls (No. 4, Class AA/A) were also ranked.
The statewide baseball polls included three area teams in the most recent rankings. Conway improved to No. 2 in Class AAAA. St. James is No. 6 in Class AAA, and Andrews moved up to No. 7 in Class AA.
For complete rankings in both sports, visit the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.
This week’s hot games
The aforementioned soccer matchups are only a couple of the games that will hold a major impact on region standings this week.
On Tuesday, the Region VII-AAA baseball scene will get some definition, especially at St. James, where the Sharks will host a Myrtle Beach team that appears to have rebounded from a disappointing 2012 season. The Seahawks are 2-0 in region play after Friday’s victory over Socastee (1-1 region). In that game, Jesse Nelson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh turned out to be the difference in a 2-1 victory.
North Myrtle Beach will also attempt to move to 2-0 in region play Tuesday night when the Chiefs head to Georgetown. Socastee will play at Wilson in the region’s third game.
The Carolina Forest baseball team rebounded from its first two losses against Conway last week to win the third game. And even though Panthers coach Jack Jolly knew this season was going to be a struggle after losing so much of last year’s team to graduation, Carolina Forest can make more headway Wednesday and Friday. The team will continue its series against South Florence, first on the road before finishing the week against the Bruins at home.
Conway’s “off” week
The new Region VI-AAAA schedule in which all five teams play each three times (as opposed to two) has been for the most part a hit.
The teams are playing Monday, Wednesday, Friday sets, and it’s giving the squads understanding about exactly where the pecking order is. Add in the fact that three of the teams – Conway (No. 2), Sumter (No. 3) and West Florence (No. 7) – are ranked in the statewide coaches poll, and there are going to be some pressure-packed games down the stretch.
Consider this, then, the last easy week Conway baseball may have the rest of the season. The Tigers will play just once, at Myrtle Beach on Thursday. The non-region game will allow Conway coach Anthony Carroll to further rest his top pitchers before his team resumes its region play with a three-game set against South Florence next week.
St. James-NMB baseball make-up game set
North Myrtle Beach and St. James have set a date for last week’s Region VII-AAA, which was rained out Tuesday. The teams will meet at noon on Saturday, March 30 at North Myrtle Beach. Those teams will play what was originally going to be the second of two games earlier that week (March 25).
Contact IAN GUERIN at 626-0295.