Camden is one win away from earning its first state baseball title shot in 20 years. The Bulldogs (21-7) advanced to the Class 3A Lower State championship game by downing St. James 8-3 on Monday. Denny Beckley’s team will play either St. James or defending champion Brookland-Cayce on Friday at Legion Field at 5 p.m. needing one more win to qualify for the state championship series for the first time since 1989.
Camden received another workmanlike pitching effort from Andrew Ansley, who improved to 7-0 with a complete-game win. The soft-tossing junior left-hander allowed seven hits and issued five walks with just one strikeout, but got the big outs when needed by relying on the crack Bulldogs defense.
“The reason for our success so far has been our defensive play,” said Beckley. “We don’t have overpowering pitching, so we have to rely on our defense. And the defensive play has been special this season, especially during the playoffs.”
Camden’s potent attack took a while to get going. The Bulldogs managed just one hit and no runs through four innings, but finally got going in the fifth with one run and erupted by a decisive five-run burst in the sixth.
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Bryant Salmond, who closed out the St. James fourth inning with a sparkling play at shortstop, opened the fifth with a walk and he eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Ansley.
Things really got rolling in the sixth, beginning with Kris Nelson’s leadoff infield safety. Tyler Pike’s double to center field put runners on second and third base with one out. Here, the RBI parade began. Salmond and Brandon Kersey delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles. Kersey’s rap put Camden ahead for the first time, 3-2. After Alvonta’ Jenkins was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Davante’ Hayes and Ansley ripped RB singles. Jenkins scored the final run in the surge on fielder’s choice ground out off the bat of Robert McKinney.
Camden added two more superfluous runs in the seventh. Jack LaFrage opened with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Jenkins. Tyler Pike scored the final run on a Sharks error.