Prep notebook: Stakes set to rise for Region VII-AAA baseball teams

For The Sun NewsApril 8, 2013 

Tim Christy knows how quickly things could turn.

His Myrtle Beach baseball team is tied with St. James for the top spot in Region VII-AAA with four games to go. Winning out would guarantee a top seed in the playoffs and continue to show how much this team improved from a year ago.

At the same time, Christy understands nothing is guaranteed.

“In this league,” he said, “you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse in a hurry.”

Case in point – this week’s games.

Myrtle Beach (5-1 region) will have two of its most meaningful contests of the season fall within three days of each other. The Seahawks head to Socastee (4-2) on Tuesday night before playing host to St. James (also 5-1 in the region) on Friday. Win both, and Myrtle Beach is sitting pretty.

Lose both, and a chance at a home playoff game could disappear.

That’s also at stake for St. James.

Like Myrtle Beach, the Sharks finished last week’s rain-shortened Mingo Bay tournament with an undefeated record. And like the Seahawks, St. James and coach Robbie Centracchio aren’t shying away from the kind of boost those victories could deliver this time of year.

“Mingo Bay, since 2009, has propelled us into the rest of our season,” Centracchio said. “You have one week to get consistent swings. You’re out of school, and all you’re focused on is baseball.

“Since 2009, we’ve won it or come in second every year. When you can play for a goal that early in the season, that means something. … Our guys are playing to win it all, and that carries over to our next goal – winning the region.”

The Sharks got a big-time win Saturday night when it defeated Gloucester Catholic (N.J.) 3-2 behind another stellar pitching outing from College of Charleston commitment Anders DeShields. Gloucester Catholic was ranked No. 12 in the most recent MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings and has won three straight state championships.

St. James’ five wins in the Mingo, including that late schedule addition for Saturday, didn’t equate to a title. However, Centracchio is confident his team is starting to hit its stride at the right time.

The Sharks will play a home game Tuesday against Georgetown, fourth in the region standings, before playing Myrtle Beach later this week. Next week, Tuesday’s game at Wilson and the regular-season finale against Socastee will help dictate the region places.

Myrtle Beach will have just as much impact in the final games of the regular season.

“You can’t fool kids,” Christie said. “We understand that we’re going to have to come out and play well these next two weeks to finish what we started. We’ve got to finish strong and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Riding momentum

By no means were St. James and Myrtle Beach the sole baseball teams coming out of spring break tournaments with a renewed sense of ability.

Area squads Conway and Carolina Forest – two teams fighting it out for playoff berths out of Region VI-AAAA – were also undefeated in the Mingo Bay.

The Tigers entered the week with a half-game lead in terms of percentages, but Carolina Forest already had an extra notch in the win column courtesy of having played an additional region series. Conway (3-3 region) has three-game sets against Sumter and West Florence in the next two weeks. Those two opponents represent the first- and second-place teams, respectively, in the region.

Carolina Forest (4-5 region) has only West Florence left. Should the teams both finish with identical region records, Conway owns the tiebreaker courtesy of its series victory over the Panthers.

Region VIII-AA also appears to be in for a wild finish. Aynor (5-1) is ranked No. 10 in the state in Class AA, with Dillon (5-1) ranked No. 3. Waccamaw, the only team to defeat Dillon in region play, is just behind those two at 4-2, and Loris has remained close at 3-3.

Softball races

Three softball teams continued strong traditions during their week off from school.

Carolina Forest was undefeated in the Ripken Tournament, Socastee won Grand Strand Softball Classic and Waccamaw ran the table in the 16th annual Waccamaw Invitational.

Like their baseball counterparts, those tournament titles could propel all three to strong finishes. The Panthers (17-1) are shooting for another trip to the state finals. Like all other teams on the diamond this time of year, however, a strong region finish could be the in-roads to making that happen.

In Class AAA, St. James (13-2, 6-0 Region VII-AAA) could lock up the region title as soon as Friday with a pair of victories and a Socastee loss. The Braves, however, clearly aren’t the same team they were prior to spring break. Coach Steve Hodge’s team not only won its tournament, it also defeated Georgetown (3-3 region) during the week off from school.

Class AA schools Waccamaw (17-3, 5-1 Region VIII-AA) and Aynor (10-3, 4-2) are both among the top 10 teams in the state rankings. However, so is No. 1 Dillon (13-1, 6-0). Each of the area squads will get one more crack at the Wildcats, beginning with Waccamaw this Friday.

State soccer rankings

The Myrtle Beach boys soccer team held on to its Class AAA No. 1 ranking, released prior to games this week.

The Seahawks went 2-1 in the prestigious Nike Palmetto Cup outside Columbia last week, including a victory over Lexington, one of the top-ranked teams in Class AAAA. Myrtle Beach (10-2 overall) will have a key game against St. James (8-3, No. 11 Class AAA) on Tuesday night. The Sharks were originally set to be the home team; however, field renovations at St. James forced a move to Myrtle Beach.

Like the Seahawks and Sharks, Socastee (9-2) is also ranked in the state poll. The Braves are No. 4 after holding the top spot earlier in the year.

Waccamaw (7-3-2) is the only other area boys program appearing in the state rankings at No. 4 in Class AA.

Area girls teams Waccamaw (No. 3, Class AA) and Myrtle Beach (No. 11, Class AAA) are also still appearing in the most-recent rankings.

For the full rankings, visit the Prep Talk blog on MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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