Pelion entered the 2008 baseball season with a young squad that was prepared to endure some struggles along the way. The rough spots proved to be few and far between, however. A stirring run during the state playoffs was the final touch in a wildly successful season.
“What was initially thought to be a rebuilding season turned out to be much more.” Said Pelion coach Barry Fogle. “It was a very successful season. The kids really played great and that gives us to build on for the future. Seniors Cory Matheson and Travis Brandenburg really came on in the playoffs.”
The Panthers finished with a 21-8 record, placed second behind eventual state champion Gilbert in Region 4-2A and won a district title to advanced to the Upper State tournament for the first time since moving up to Class 2A in 1997. It was the first Elite Eight appearances for Pelion since 1995 when it was still a A school.
Brandenburg and Matheson will be missed. Brandenburg led the team in hitting with a .415 batting average, and topped the club with 30 runs scored and 36 RBIs. He was also stellar on the mound, posting a 6-3 record with one save and a 2.92 ERA. Matheson hit .403 with 15 runs and 28 RBIs and led the team with three home runs.
But there is plenty of talent slated to return in 2009, including Ken Smoak who emerged as the staff pitching ace as a sophomore while going 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 50 innings of work. Smoak was terror at the plate, as well, with a .405 batting average, 28 runs scored, 32 RBIs and 14 steals.
The other underclassmen who stepped it up this spring were Jean Pacheco, Wesley Camp, Catlin Craft, Will Spence and Taylor Jackson.
Pacheco hit .293 with 26 runs and 14 steals. Camp batted .341 with 27 runs, 16 RBIs and 13 steals, and was 4-2 with two saves and a 3.44 ERA on the hill. Craft hit .286 with 22 runs, 15 RBIs and 11 steals. Spence closed with a .348 batting average with 28 runs, 18 RBIs, 14 steals and a team-high 24 walks, not to mention going 4-0 with a 0.94 ERA in 22.1 innings on the mound. Jackson came on late to hit .302 with 19 runs and 16 RBIs in just 43 at bats.
Pelion will be moving into a new, alien region next year that is not based in the Midlands. The Panthers have been moved to Region 5-2A with Barnwell, Silver Bluff, Edisto, Ridgeland and Wade Hampton of Hampton.
“Next season will be something of an unknown with us being in a new region against teams we have not played much in the past,” said Fogle.