Camden ended a long postseason baseball drought on Wednesday, disposing of region rival Darlington 9-3 at Legion Field to win the Class 3A District VI championship. It is the first Sweet 16 title for the Bulldogs since the change to a district playoff format in 2001.
“I’m really proud of the way these kids got their mental toughness up to the level where it needs to be at this time in the season,” said Camden coach Denny Beckley, who is now in his 10th season at the Bulldogs helm.
“It’s been a long time since this program has enjoyed this kind of success, and it’s creating a buzz around town.”
Camden broke a 0-0 deadlock with six runs in the bottom of the third inning. The impressive thing was the uprising began with two outs in the inning and no runners on base. Starting pitcher Kris Nelson got things started with a triple, followed by a walk to Jack LaFrage. Tyler Pike and Bryant Salmond then staked Camden to a 2-0 with back-to-back RBI singles. An error on a ball put into play by Brandon Kersey loaded the bases. Red-hot Alvonta’ Jenkins delivered a two-run single for a 4-0 lead, and DaVante’ Hayes chased home two more runs with a ringing triple.
In the end, all nine Camden starters had at least one hit.
Nelson went six innings to pick up the win, allowing three earned runs and eight hits. He struck out four, walked one and hit two Falcons batters before giving way to LaFrage in the seventh. LaFrage got off to a bad start, issuing two free passes, but he found the groove and closed out the game by getting a double play and a strikeout.
The Bulldogs (19-7) open the Lower State championship tournament Saturday at home against District 8 champion Socastee. The 18-8 Braves beat No. 1 see Hilton Head two times in three district meetings, splitting a championship doubleheader last night. After falling 9-6 in the opener, Socastee rallied from a 9-3 deficit to win 13-10 in the nightcap to advance.