If elite pitching indeed is the gold standard in baseball postseason play at any level, Mid-Carolina’s Rebels might be a good bet to strike it rich in the Class 2A state playoffs that begin Thursday.
No team in the 2A field can match the Rebels’ stellar three-man rotation featuring veterans Krishawn Holley and Cody Page and rookie sensation C.J. Edwards. M-C, which enters the postseason with a 17-2 record and ranked No. 2 behind Bishop England, boasts a 1.74 team ERA.
Holley, a junior, is a proven big-game pitcher who helped the Rebels capture the 2007 state title in 2007. He has been something of a mystery so far, though his numbers are not bad by any means - 4-1 record, 3.00 ERA, 56 strikeouts in 35 innings of work. But he has struggled at times with command of his off-speed pitches.
Louie Alexander, the M-C football coach and athletic director who took over midway through the season for long-time Rebels manager Clyde Livingston, isn’t concerned about Holley’s somewhat uneven regular-season performance.
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“Sometimes pitchers have trouble controlling the breaking ball and the change-up, the off-speed stuff that sets up the fastball,” said Alexander. “Krishawn’s had some problems there, but overall he’s thrown pretty darn well.”
Page, a senior, and Edwards, meanwhile, have been lights off all spring. Page is 5-0 with a 1.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just five walks in 26 innings. Edwards, a lanky sophomore right-hander with an electric slider, is 5-1 with a 0.72 ERA and 59 punch-outs in 39 innings, more than half of which came in three showdown games against defending state champion Gilbert, which moved into Region 3-2A this season. Edwards went 2-1 vs. the Indians, leading M-C to a special tie-breaking win on Monday that gave the Rebs the pennant and the region’s No. 1 state playoff seed.
The good news is Thursday’s District III playoff opener against Lee Central from the fourth-place team out of low-end Region 4-2A, probably will not requite much effort from any pitcher Alexander sends to the hill.
Offensively, the Rebels are hitting .263 as a team. Will and Alex Bendenbaugh share the team lead with .340 batting averages. Will has 15 runs, 19 RBIs and two home runs, while Alex has 15 runs and 15 RBIs on the books.. Holley and Page also contribute with bats in their hands. Holley is hitting .327 with 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored, while Page is batting just .244 but has 14 RBIs. Jeffrey Hentz is another Rebel who gets a lot out of a low average. Despite his .224 mark, Hentz leads the team in homers (4) and RBIs (17). Leadoff man Tevins Walker is hitting .279 with 19 runs scored and 13 RBIs, has drawn a team-high 14 walks and swiped nine bases.
Gilbert (16-5) opens its state title defense at home against Eau Claire in a first-round District II game, and likely will not need either Alex Davidson (7-0, 1.83 ERA) and Jake Padgett (5-2, 1.90 ERA, 56 K) to get by the overmatched Shamrocks. USC-bound Christopher has had a great offensive season for the fifth-ranked Tribe. Owings is hitting .482 with an unbelievable 1.525 OPS. He has 25 runs, 19 RBIs, seven doubles, five homers, 16 walks and 20 steals on the books.
The Indians failed to earn a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2002, but can make up for that misstep by winning a fourth straight district championship.
Batesburg-Leesville (15-6) is ranked 10th in 2A, but as the third-place finisher in loaded Region 3-2A, the Panthers will take their act on the road for a District I first-round game in Kershaw against Andrew Jackson, the No. 2 seed out of weak Region 4-2A. The Panthers have advanced to the Upper State championship tournament in Tommy Williams’ first two seasons at the Panthers helm. B-L made the Elite Eight cut as a No. 3 seed in 2007.
The Panthers have received decent pitching this spring from Scott Price (2-1, 2 saves, 2.02 ERA), Jace Grandy (5-2, 3.45 ERA) and Cody Sanders (6-2, 3.89 ERA), but a potent attack is the B-L calling card. The Panthers sport a .338 team batting average with Price (.491 average, 1.325 OPS, 24 runs, 17 RBIs, nine doubles,16 walks), K.J. Jonhson (.478, 22 runs, 14 steals), Grandy (.397, 26 RBIs), Demetrius Robinson (.387, 17 runs, 14 RBIs) and D.J. Osby (.342, 20 runs, 17 RBIs) leading the way.
Pelion (16-6) is the lone Midlands entry in the Lower State bracket. The Panthers won five of the last six region games to finish second in Region 5-2A and earn a first round home playoff date against first-year Cane Bay in the District VIII opener.
The Panthers beat Cane Bay, 10-6, in the first-ever meeting of the teams at the rookie Cobras’ own spring break tournament.
Wesley Camp and Ken Smoak are the Pelion headliners. Camp is 6-1 with one save, a 1.99 ERA and 59 strikeouts on the hill, and is hitting .444 with 37 runs scored, 15 RBIs, three triples and 28 steals. Smoak is 3-2 with one save, a 3.91 ERA and 44 strikeouts on the mound, and is batting .418 with 26 runs, 24 RBIs and 11 steals.
Cory Boren (3-1, 2.20 ERA) is another solid pitching option for Panthers. Taylor Jackson (.375, 14 runs, 17 RBIs), Chris Dillow (.321, 15 RBIs) and Matthew Williamson (.333, 15 runs, 15 RBIs) provide solid offensive backing to Camp and Smoak.