Camden’s baseball team is enjoying life in a new less demanding region this spring. The Bulldogs, now situated in Region 6-3A, finished third a year ago in the loaded Region 4-3A group that featured Upper State champion A.C. Flora and Upper State runner-up Blythewood, not to mention two other strong teams - Dreher and Lugoff-Elgin.
The field in 6-3A – Wilson, Lakewood, Darlington, Crestwood and Marlboro County – is not nearly up to that standard. So, it’s not surprising to discover that Denny Beckley’s veteran squad is off to a flying start with an 8-2 overall record, and a 3-0 grade in region matters.
This week, Camden looks to keep things rolling with three interesting games on the schedule. The Bulldogs take on Darlington Tuesday at home, step out of region for a neighborhood brawl on Wednesday at Lugoff-Elgin, and closes out the week with a region road trip to face Lakewood in Sumter. Lakewood enters the week at 2-1 and in second place in the region standings.
The Bulldogs are already 3-0 against Wilson, beating the Tigers from Florence in a preseason tournament before sweeping two early regions games by 5-1 and 6-0 scores, and crushed Darlington 13-2 in the same preseason tournament.
Senior left-hander Tyler Pike was the winning pitcher in both region outings against Wilson, allowing no earned runs in his 12 total innings of work against the Tigers. Senior infielder Jack LaFrage went 3-for-3 with a double, junior infielder Kris Nelson was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, senior center fielder Trey Brazell went 2-for-4 with a run scored and senior catcher Robert McKinney was 2-fpr-4 with a run and an RBI in Camden’s 5-1 success on March 12. Brazell went 2-for-3 with a triple, two stolen bases, one and one RBI in the Bulldogs 6-0 win on March 19.
Junior left-hander Andrew Ansley starred on the hill and at the plate in Camden’s 21-0 region rout of Crestwood on March 17. Ansely tossed a five-inning shutout with nine strikeouts, and went 3-for-4 with five RBIs. McKinney was 3-for-3 with a double, two triples, four runs scored and one RBI.
Camden, which is averaging eight runs a game, is off to a great offensive start with Nelson, McKinney, LaFrage and Brazell in the lead.
Nelson, a four-year varsity player, is hitting .500 with an astounding 1.256 OPS, eight runs scored and seven RBI. McKinney, a three-year letterman and a two-year starter, is batting .420 with an impressive 1.158 OPS, three triples, 11 runs scored and six RBIs. LaFrage sports a .390 batting mark and a .938 OPS, has scored 11 runs and shares the team lead for Ansley with eight RBI. Brazel, the Bulldogs leadoff man, is at .370 with a .500 on base percentage, a .987 OPS, eight runs and seven steals.
Otherwise, McFarland sports a .330 batting mark six runs, seven RBIs and three steals, DaVante Hayes is batting .460 with eight runs and four steals, Alvonta’ Jenkins is hitting .320 with four steals and Pike is at .290 with six runs and six RBIs.
The other veteran presence is four-year shortstop Bryant Salmond, who got off to a late start because he a member of Camden’s state championship basketball team and is just now rounding into baseball shape. So far, Salmond is hitting .273 with five runs and four steals.