Preview: 4A baseball playoffs

04/25/2012 11:43 PM

04/25/2012 11:45 PM

The restoration of the Lexington baseball program under new coach Brian Hucks has, to date, been an unqualified success. The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 22-2 overall record and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, won the Region 5-4A championship and prevailed at two tournaments – the IP Classic and the SC Diamond Invitational.

But the real goal is to win the program’s first state championship since 1999. The road to glory begins Thursday against Midlands foe Lugoff-Elgin (13-10) in a first-round District V game at Lexington.

There has been across-the-board improvement in all facets of the Wildcat game. Lexington sports a .339 team batting average and is scoring runs at a 7.9 per-game clip. The pitching has been stellar with a 1.75 team ERA and a .210 opponents batting average.

The offensive stars include Austin Bello (.493, 27 R, 17 RBI, 10 2B), Dillon Hodge (.429, 21 R, 18 RBI), Collin Steagall (.417, 16 R, 23 RBI), Nick Ciuffo (.369, 14 RBI) and Colie Bowers (.366, 26 R, 14 RBI). The mound mainstays include Josh Reagan (5-0, 0.77 ERA), A.J. Hart (5-2, 2 saves, 0.76 ERA) and Cole McMillan (5-0, 2.10 ERA).

Third-ranked Blythewood, the No. 1 seed in District IV, opens at home against Spartanburg. The Bengals (19-3) are a bit thin in pitching depth, especially with the season-ending elbow injury suffered by projected staff ace Thomas Bessinger, but Andrew Beckwith has stepped in as a true No. 1 man. If Blythewood keeps winning, the rotation should be fine.

White Knoll (18-5) hosts Summerville in District VII as the No. 2 seed. The Timberwolves are one of the hottest teams in the state, winning 12 of their last 14 games.

Offensively, WK has been potent, compiling a .324 team batting average, slugging 23 home runs and averaging 7.7 runs per game. The big guns are Carl Wise (.564, 31 R, 30 RBI, 10 HR), Ray Murphy (.493, 31 R, 29 RBI, 8 HR), Trevor Bradley (.440, 27 R, 11 RBI) and John Robert Rodgers (.343, 15 RBI).

Bradley is the ace of the pitching staff with a 6-2 record and a 2.29 ERA. Rodgers is 4-0 with one save and a 3.00 ERA. Blake Roland is 3-0 with two saves and a 1.27 mostly in relief roles.

Otherwise, Spring Valley (14-8) is the No. 2 seed in District II and opens at home against Lancaster, while Dutch Fork (9-9) and Irmo (6-13) will be on the road. DF plays at Sumter and Irmo has a long trip to face Wando.

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