Lexington coach Brian Hucks was not sure what he was going to get out of his team after they lost the opening game of the Class 4A, District 5 playoffs on Thursday. The Wildcats seemed loose and poised, but the veteran coach wasn’t clear how that would carry over to the field.
Turns out, it was for the best. Lexington banged out 11 hits as they eliminated Beaufort 11-1 in five innings Saturday afternoon.
“They were extremely loose, and I didn’t know if that was good or bad,” Hucks said. “I think this team will take the role and mentality they want to take on. We had a good talk Friday that all we have to do is win four games. We’ve done that a lot in this program. Everybody was upbeat after that conversation and the mood was relaxed today, and maybe that’s where this team needs to be. Maybe I need to relax and not be as intense.”
The Wildcats had scored four runs in their past two games, so Hucks juggled the lineup and it paid dividends early. Seven of the nine starters collected hits, eight of the nine scored and five of them drove in runs in the balanced attack. They also benefited from three Beaufort errors, six walks and a hit batter.
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“There were some guys that were trending up and some that were trending down,” Hucks said. “Sometimes change for the sake of change is good to get them in a different part of the lineup so they can have a different approach. It worked out.”
Lexington (17-8) wasted little time in getting its offense going. Two walks and a wild pitch put runners at second and third for Marshall Pratte. He delivered a two-run single to center to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead three batters in. Justin Bowers followed with a RBI double down the left field line for a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The Wildcats scored in all five innings. Brice Kirven added an RBI single in the second, and – after getting two quick outs in the third – scored two unearned runs in the third. Will Hunter had a run-scoring single in the fourth, Kirven drove in his second run with a bases-loaded walk, and Cameron Matthews had an RBI double.
Matthews drove home Bowers to end the game with no outs in the fifth.
Bowers had a double and triple while Pratte led the charge with two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“We wanted to put the ball in play and hit it on the ground to make them make plays,” Pratte said. “It worked out for us.”
Lexington’s Chase Williamson started but lasted for one batter into the second inning. Rhett Bane relieved and improved to 4-1 on the season with three innings of scoreless relief. He retired the final seven batters he faced.
Hucks said the decision to remove Williamson so quickly is because they were looking at having to win three more games to escape district play.
“This was only his second time back all year, and we didn’t feel like he had his best stuff,” Hucks said of Williamson. “Having to play four games in four or five days, we didn’t want to burn him. Bane is a strike thrower, and he came in and did the job we expected.”
Lexington will face Ridge View at home Monday at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the opening contest on Thursday. The Blazers defeated the Wildcats 4-2 to send them into the losers bracket. Ridge View lost 5-0 to Goose Creek on Saturday to set up the elimination game.
“Thursday was hard on us, but these guys responded like champions today,” Hucks said. “It’s important to get a five-inning game when you’re in the losers bracket. It saves us some arms. Our backs are against the wall and I had no doubt we would come out swinging.”
W: Rhett Bane (4-1) L: Carson Gregory. Hitters: (L) Marshall Pratte 2-4, Justin Bowers 2-3, Cameron Matthews 2-4, Will Hunter 2-3.