Lexington baseball coach Brian Hucks was a little anxious going into the opening game of the Class 4A, District V playoffs Thursday night against Lugoff-Elgin. The Wildcats came in as the top-ranked team in Class 4A with the target squarely on their back.
But with senior left-hander Josh Reagan on the mound, he had little to worry about. The South Carolina commitment was stellar as Lexington won the opener 6-1 against the Demons at Wildcat Field.
There are always nerves when you play that first playoff game, Hucks said. There is a little layoff and we build toward this and talk about the playoffs all year. Once we got through that second inning, we settled down and played baseball.
Reagan worked six innings and allowed one unearned run on three hits, with 12 strikeouts and one walk. The second inning was key. After Lugoff-Elgin (10-14) loaded the bases on a single, error and walk with no outs, Reagan struck out the next three batters to keep the game scoreless.
He gives you a chance to win every time out, Hucks said. He had command of three pitches and located very well. Its never flashy, but its effective. Theres always a sense of calm when hes on the mound and working out of that jam in the second is something he has done all season.
The key to Reagans success was his off-speed pitches. He kept the Demons off-balance and pounded the zone with his curve ball and change-up in improving to 8-0.
My curve ball was a lot better than it has been all year, Reagan said. I was down in the zone and they kept swinging at it, so I kept throwing it. I didnt use my change-up until later in the game, and they were fooled on that one, too. It was the first game of the playoffs, and we had some nerves but its nice to get this first one under our belt.
Lugoff-Elgin coach Randy Stokes knew coming in his team had to get to Reagan early if it was going to pull off the upset. They scored an unearned run in the third inning after an error, stolen base and RBI single by Gunner Smith.
Our game plan was to be aggressive early and swing the bat because he wasnt going to walk a lot of people. He was very good, Stokes said. He mixed his pitches well and threw a lot of strikes. He pounded the zone and we swung through a lot of pitches.
After Reagan worked out of the jam, the Lexington (21-4) offense came to life. David Barboza delivered an RBI singe to score Zach Paquette to get the scoring started. After a walk to Jordan Buster, No. 9 hitter Cody Smith ripped a two-run triple to the fence in right-center field to increase the lead to 3-0. Dalton Addy added an RBI single to make it 4-0 after two innings.
Getting the production from the bottom part of the lineup early was important for the Wildcats success.
We always say if the seven, eight, and nine guys can flip the lineup over and have a big inning, its going to help us offensively, Hucks said. We didnt hit consistently like we need to, but it was enough to win.
Senior Nick Ciuffo ended the scoring with a two-run double in the fourth inning.
Lexington will host Ashley Ridge at 7 p.m. Friday. The Swamp Foxes were 5-3 winners against Cane Bay in nine innings Thursday night. Last year, Ashley Ridge eliminated the Wildcats from the playoffs in the Lower State Championship series.
W: Josh Reagan 8-0. L: Zack Bowers 3-4. Hitters: LE Gunner Smith 2-3. L Ryan Brown 2-2, Nick Ciuffo 2-4, David Barboza 2-3.