Though four teams are locked in as contenders for the Region 5-4A baseball pennant, Tommy Mishoe’s Lexington Wildcats have the simplest solution to avoiding a tangled mess at the top of the standings by the time the regular season concludes next Monday.
To wit, if the Wildcats get it together in their final three games, the region’s No. 1 playoff seed is theirs even if they ended up sharing the championship with North Augusta.
Here’s the situation entering tonight’s full round of region games: North Augusta currently resides in first place with an 7-2 record with five games left to play; Lexington and White Knoll share second place at 8-3 and have three region dates on the schedule; Dutch Fork is a half game back in fourth place with a 7-3 region record, and has four conference outings to go.
Lexington plays at Dutch Fork tonight, hosts North Augusta in a makeup game on Wednesday and concludes the region campaign at White Knoll on Friday. A sweep gives the Wildcats no worse than a share of first place, and a tie-breaking edge over North Augusta thanks to a sweep of the Yellow Jackets.
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But the Wildcats have been in a funk of late, winning only four of 11 games since beating North Augusta 7-2 to stand at 5-0 in the region. Last week, Lexington righted the ship somewhat by going 3-1 in region games, sweeping a doubleheader from last-place Orangeburg-Wilkinson, then rebounding from a 7-3 loss at home against White Knoll with a tough 1-0 win over Irmo behind the stellar pitching of Derrick Smith, who tossed a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts. The lone run came on a two-out, RBI single by pinch hitter Kyle Turner in the fifth inning
“We have destiny in our own hands, or however you want to say it,” Mishoe. “I’d rather have it this way where it all comes down to what we do, not what other teams do. We’ve been inconsistent all season, so it’s been a battle. Hopefully, we’ll be ready.”
If Lexington falters, the door is open for North Augusta. The Yellow Jackets have five region games left – vs. Richland Northeast, Lexington, O-W and two with Aiken.
Things have to fall just right for both White Knoll and Dutch Fork for either team to emerge as the No. 1 playoff seed. Just running the table might not be good enough for either the Timberwolves or the Silver Foxes.
Dutch Fork has been the hottest team in the region of late, winning five of six since falling 5-3 to Lexington on March 20. The lone stumble during the surge was a bitter 6-5 loss to North Augusta. The highlight was the 2-0 win over White Knoll behind the pitching of senior ace Chad Balderman last Thursday, one day after the Timberwolves beat Lexington.
The top four teams in the standings virtually are assured of earned the region’s four automatic state playoff berths. But Aiken (4-6) and Irmo (4-7) still have outside shots at securing a wild card playoff entry with a fifth-place finish.
Richland Northeast (2-8) and O-W (0-8) are playing out the string.