CONWAY — Early Thursday, Conway dropped a spot in the Class AAAA state rankings, down to No. 3.
The way things are going, the Tigers have bigger immediate issues.
South Florence, a night after winning its first region game since the 2011 season, made it two straight against Conway with a 4-3, extra-inning victory. And Anthony Carroll’s team looked like anything but a team loaded with the type of talent expected to make a deep playoff run.
The Tigers committed six errors, gave up six walks and made several more mental mistakes that cost them against a Bruins team that came in with a renewed sense of confidence.
“We’re a defensive team; we’ve always relied on our pitching,” Conway senior and Coastal Carolina signee G.K. Young said. “Six errors isn’t cutting it.
“That hurt, and it’s pretty deep. Hopefully that will burn a little bit when we come back and help us win the rest of our region games.”
The Tigers will have to wait for more than a week to play another game that impacts the region standings. Following Thursday, Conway (7-5, 3-3Region VI-AAAA) was a essentially a half-game ahead of rival Carolina Forest for the third and final playoff spot.
It’s not exactly where this team – one with three players committed to perennial NCAA Division-I top-25 teams – thought it would be at this point in the season.
The errors, as Young pointed out, were especially discouraging.
Conway committed three in the top of the fourth inning alone, leading to a pair of Bruin runs. South Florence failed to record a hit in the inning, taking advantage of the errors and a pair of walks.
Fittingly, the Bruins went head in the top of the eighth on handful of Tiger mistakes. Center field Josh Johnson walked with one out, only to move up a base following a botched throw. He then scored two batters later on a passed ball.
It erased a clutch piece of hitting from Conway’s Colby Ard in the bottom of the seventh when he drove in teammate Wilson Mishoe to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
South Florence’s Lindsey Robinson went all eight innings for the Bruins in what amounted to one of his best performances of the season. He gave up a respectable six hits to the normally dangerous Conway bats.
Maybe, he said, it was a product of momentum from Wednesday’s victory.
“It feels like if we could get that first one out of the way, we would come back and show up pretty well,” Robinson said. “It felt pretty good. We had a lot of confidence coming into [Thursday].”
West Florence (6-9, 2-7) remains in last place in the region and would still likely need to win out and get some help to earn a playoff berth.
The Tigers, meanwhile, have Friday’s game at St. James and next week’s appearance in the Mingo Bay tournament to right the ship. Their final six region games are against Sumter and West Florence, two teams currently atop the region standings and also ranked among the top 10 in the statewide rankings.
That may not be a good sign, as the Tigers just lost consecutive games to a team that has struggled for two calendar years.
“For some reason, we always seem to struggle against them,” Carroll said of South Florence. “But right now, we’re struggling against everybody. We’re not making plays. We’re not hitting. We’re not doing a very good job right now. We’ll keep working and hope we can find a way to turn this around.”
W – Lindsey Robinson. L – Will Parker. Top Hitters – SF: Brayden Hatchell 1-2, 2 BB, RBI, Run, SB; Garrett Bevill 1-4, RBI, Run. CON: Bryce McCord 1-4 2 RBI; G.K. Young 1-3 2B, 2B, Run; Colby Ard 1-4 RBI.
Records: South Florence 6-9, 2-8 Region VI-AAAA; Conway 7-5, 3-3.
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.