Ridge View was aware of the challenge it faced in the opening game of the Class 4A, District 5 baseball playoffs. The Blazers had to go on the road and face off against defending state champion Lexington.
They also knew they had pitcher Chris Moody on their side. The senior left-hander stymied the Wildcats and delivered the go-ahead single as the Blazers rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to give the visitors a 4-2 victory Thursday night.
“That is a quality baseball team, and I can’t say enough about my kids coming out and battling knowing they were the underdog,” Ridge View coach Joe Harvley said. “We threw everything we had and somehow, in the end, it worked out.”
The victory puts Ridge View (15-10) into the winner’s bracket at Goose Creek on Saturday at 1 p.m. Lexington, which will play Beaufort on Saturday at 1 p.m., will have to come through the losers bracket if it hopes to defend its title. In winning the championship last season, Lexington (16-8) went 8-1 and never fell into the losers bracket.
“We’ll have to do it the hard way now,” Lexington coach Brian Hucks said. “It’s a one-game season. If we want it to continue, we just have to go out and win. We’ve won a bunch of games in this program, and we’re going to have to find a way to string some together to keep playing.”
The Wildcats held a 2-0 lead through five innings on the strength of a home run from Marshall Pratte in the first and a sacrifice fly from Justin Bowers in the third. They had chances to blow the game open in the middle innings but Moody got out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth innings, surrendering one run in the third.
“I’ve been looking at the stats and talking to the coaches that have faced Lexington and they told me if you get Nos. 3, 9 and 10 out, let us know because we haven’t figured it out,” Harvley said. “Moody was excellent. He’s been lights-out for us all year, and we expected for him to give us a chance. He threw enough off-speed stuff that his 78-80 fastball looked about 90 whenever he showed it.”
Moody, an Erskine commitment, allowed two earned runs on five hits. He struck out nine, with three walks and one hit batter. He struck out the side in the seventh inning after Lexington got the tying runs on base. He improved to 7-1.
“I had it all working,” Moody said. “Things aren’t always guaranteed, but we felt like we could come in here and compete. We weren’t playing against Lexington so much as we were just playing the game of baseball, and my guys responded.”
Hucks knew Moody would be difficult to deal with but thought Lexington wasted the early opportunities it had.
“We had several opportunities, but you have to give Moody credit because he made pitches when he had to,” Hucks said. “That’s what’s he’s done all year. Everybody I’ve talked to raved about how he competed and how he pitched, and I see why.”
Lexington starter Cordes Baker was matching Moody until the seventh. Ridge View cut the lead to 2-1 with a RBI groundout by Logan Sherry in the sixth.
Then in the seventh, Baker walked two and allowed three hits despite the fact that one ball left the infield. Two walks and an infield single by Marion Brown loaded the bases with one out. Will O’Brien tied it with another infield single before Moody gave the Blazers a 3-2 lead on a sharply hit single to center. Sherry drove in the final run on a fielder’s choice grounder to short.
“Baseball is a game of adjustments, and we made the little adjustments that we were having problems with,” Moody said. “I knew he was coming fastball because he was struggling to throw strikes, and I was in attack mode.”
Baker (7-1) allowed six hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
“He walked the lead-off hitter, and it kind of opened the floodgates,” Hucks said. “They get two infield hits where we can’t make a play on it and they flip the lineup around and get a couple of hits. Give them credit. They battled and beat our best guy.”
W: Chris Moody 7-1. L: Cordes Baker (7-1). Hitters: (RV) Moody 2-4; Casey Poole 2-4. (L) Marshall Pratte 3-4, HR.