An offseason back injuryforced Brookland-Cayce’s JamesHall to rely more on breakingpitches this season.
That proved bad news forCarolina Forest on Wednesday.
Mixing his curveball and sliderfor strikes, Hall fanned 13Panthers and led top-rankedBrookland-Cayce to a 2-0 win inthe championship game of theClass 3A District 6 playoffs atBrookland-Cayce High.
The Bearcats (25-1), winnersof 13 consecutive games, advanceto the four-team, double-eliminationLower State tournament.
Brookland-Cayce will play host toeither Lakewood or Georgetownon Saturday at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Hall (7-0), a junior, entered thegame having struck out a modest35 in 31 innings this season. But,thanks to effective breaking balls,he set the tone by fanning nineCarolina Forest batters over thefirst four innings.
“I hurt my back and lost a lotof velocity,” Hall said. “So I haveto be more of a curveball pitcher.My slider was working, too. I didn’thave to throw any changeups.”
Panthers left-hander JeremyKnab (6-2) handcuffed Brookland-Cayce’s normally potent lineup,holding the Bearcats hitlessthrough the first three inningswhile facing the minimum numberof batters.
Speedy outfielder To’NelLegette ended Knab’s no-hit bidwith a one-out infield single in thefourth before he was stranded atfirst.
But Brookland-Cayce, whichentered the game with a team battingaverage of .317, broke loosein the bottom of the fifth inningwith four hits and two runs.
Jacob Oren led off with asharp single to center and courtesyrunner Michael Gilroy tooksecond when Panthers catcherMatt Archer fired a pick-offthrow into right field for anerror. Jeff Estep’s sacrifice buntattempt turned into a single. Hestole second, giving the Bearcatsrunners at second and third withno outs.
Burt lined a single past thedrawn-in infield, giving Brookland-Cayce the runs it needed.
Hall started the fifth inning byhitting Jacob Talbot with a pitchonly to see Talbot picked off firstbase by catcher Oren.
Hall walked Archer and, whenMatthew Jolly laid down a sacrificebunt, Hall fielded the ball butthrew high to first base for anerror.
With runners at first andsecond, Hall bore down to strikeout Carolina Forest leadoff hitterRyan Stewart. Josh Knabsmashed a sinking line drive toleft field and Brookland-Cayce’sEvan Chastain preserved the tiewith a rolling catch.
After the Bearcats moved infront, Hall walked the first batterof the sixth inning before strikingout the side.
W: James Hall (7-0). L: Jeremy Knab (6-2).SV: Adam Westmoreland (1). Leading hitters:BC: Burt 1-2, 2 RBI. Rec: BC 25-1, CF 18-11. Next game: BC plays host to either Lakewoodor Georgetown Saturday.