MYRTLE BEACH — Someone dethroning St. James’ run of baseball region titles will have to wait at least one more season.
Courtesy of the Sharks’ 7-3 win at Socastee on Friday, coach Robbie Centracchio’s team earned its fourth straight region championship and locked down yet another No. 1 seed for the Class AAA playoffs, which begin Thursday.
Arguably just as important, St. James has plenty of momentum. The only game the team has lost in the last in the last 30 days was a non-region game against Waccamaw. That list of victories includes the last seven region games and a 5-0 run through the Mingo Bay spring break tournament.
Despite several new faces from last year’s team, and the two before that, the Sharks continued to own the region.
“They either buy into it, or they’re selfish,” Centracchio said, referring to the make-or-break ultimatum he gives every one of his teams. “Some of them are going to go on to college and play, but while they’re at St. James, it’s about reaching that goal.”
In this case, check another goal off the list.
In the process, the Sharks (19-6, 9-1 Region VII-AAA) got to Socastee starter Dylan Thompson in the second inning by batting around. Five hits led to five runs. A pair of Braves errors also didn’t hurt St. James’ chances. One led to the Sharks’ first run, and the other helped extend the inning.
“One of the key things is being a team, and we work together to capitalize on other people making mistakes,” said junior Trent Revis, who added an RBI after the second error. “We have to keep showing the heart, and keep showing up to win. We have to keep it in the family.”
It was plenty of support for St. James starting pitcher Anders DeShields. The senior lefty avenged his loss to Socastee from March and pitched closer to the form he showed a year ago in the region-title clinching, no-hitter he threw against Socastee.
On Friday, the College of Charleston commitment allowed only one hit through the first five innings while he and his teammates built a comfortable lead. He also got some impressive defensive help from his outfielders. Right fielder Brock Gallagher ended the second inning with a highlight-reel diving catch, and left fielder Zach Cook chased down what originally appeared to be a hit in the bottom of the third.
The Braves got something working in the bottom of the seventh, including a two-run single from Hunter Renfrow, but by that time, the lead was too much to overcome.
Socastee, which finished the regular season 18-7 overall and 7-3 in Region VII-AAA, will open the playoffs at home on Friday against the third seed team from Region VI. That region had at least one game delayed Friday, so the opponent was not immediately known. The Braves won a points-based tie-breaker over third-place Myrtle Beach, which also finished 7-3 in the region.
The Sharks will have an opportunity to also extends their four-year district title streak. The Sharks won their first of those in 2009, when it upset a pair of higher-seeded teams to start the run.
The Braves went on to play in the Class AAA Lower State tournament each of the next three years, including a run to the 2011 state title.
St. James may or may not have that type of success in the coming weeks. But if nothing else, they’ve achieved some crucial positioning to get there. Should the Shark continue to win, they won’t have to go on the road until the opening round of the Lower State tournament.
“It means a lot,” Centracchio said. “They’ve got to believe. If they can believe, they can do it.”
W – Anders DeShields. L – Dylan Thompson. Top hitters – St. James: Trent Revis 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, Run; Zach Cook 1-3, RBI, Run; Zach Sanders 1-3, RBI, Run; Caleb Duggan 1-3, RBI, Run; Carter Brakefield 3-4. Socastee: Hunter Renfrow 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI, Run; Zach Hyde 0-3, RBI; Kyle Smith 2-3, 2B, Run.
Records: St. James 19-6, 9-1 Region VII-AAA; Socastee 18-7, 7-3.