A.C. Flora infielder Austin Beskid is getting healthy at the right time as the Falcons are looking to win the Class 3A state championship for the third consecutive season.
The senior was 4-for-4 with three doubles to lead a 12-hit attack to pace a 15-5 victory over Eastside in five innings in the opening round of the four-team, double-elimination Upper State bracket.
The Falcons will host Wren, a 7-6 winner over Greenville in eight innings, on Wednesday.
Beskid missed time this season with two severely sprained ankles and a concussion. He returned to the lineup the final week of the regular season, and, after five playoff games, he feels as though he’s getting his rhythm and swing back to normal. He has six hits in his past 12 at-bats.
“I feel like I’m starting to get back to where I was at the beginning of the season,” Beskid said. “I had to get some at-bats under me. and I feel like I’m starting to see the ball a lot better. I feel good and ready to go.
Coach Andy Hallett said having Beskid back in the lineup adds another dimension to an offense that already was pretty good.
“Austin is finally starting to find some rhythm from being hurt all year,” Hallett said. “He’s been able to play some games in a row and see some pitching and see some balls.”
The Falcons (24-4) wasted little time in getting the bats going on a hot and humid night. After allowing three first inning runs to the Eagles (18-7), they sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom half of the inning to claim a 5-3 lead.
Madison Stokes and Everett Eynon walked to start the inning against Eastside starter Nick Burns. After a strikeout, Stokes scored from second on a errant pick-off throw. Beskid delivered an RBI double down the left-field line before Connor Desmond had a run-scoring triple to right. After another walk, Josh Hernandez lined a 2-run single back up the middle for a 5-3 lead.
“I wanted to get a run or two on the board and get back into the game,” Hallett said. “That is the biggest thing after giving up a crooked number in the first where we help them. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to come away with five.”
The Falcons broke things open in the fifth with nine unearned runs thanks to three straight throwing errors by the Eagles. Beskid started the rally with a double, and Desmond – who was 2-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBIs – scored Beskid.
Beskid and Desmond combined to go 6-for-7 with four doubles, a triple and five runs batted in between them. Desmond is 7-for-10 in his past three games.
“Connor has been in three worlds,” Hallett said. “He started out OK, then got hotter than heck. He cooled off a little bit, but he’s back again. He’s finding the barrel, and any time he puts the ball in play, it’s a hurry play.”
After those two got the inning started, three straight bunts or grounders to third resulted in throwing errors, and the Falcons scored seven runs before an out was recorded.
“We small-balled really well in that inning,” Hallett said. “That’s one of the things we do. We have some guys that can run and that puts some pressure on the defense, and we wind up scoring runs with bunts.
“We executed real well to get us back out front, and once we got some guys on base, we got some barrel shots and end up with a nine-spot.”
Beskid pitched two innings of relief to earn the victory. He allowed two runs on one hit but more importantly Hallett was able to get three pitchers in the game that lasted five innings, so he should a full arsenal of arms on Wednesday.
“We wanted to use as many arms as we had,” Hallett said. “We weren’t looking for anybody to do anything specific, but the weather killed us. Our guys were gassed from the humidity. I was thinking if I could get one inning out of everybody, I would keep running guys out there.”
W: Austin Beskid. L: Nick Burns. Hitters: (ACF) Beskid 4-4, 3 2B, Connor Desmond 2-3, 3 RBI.