Friday is championship day of sorts in the state baseball and softball playoffs.
Elite Eight tournament titles are at stake, but the big prizes are tickets to next week’s best-of-three state championship series.
Gilbert hosts Class 2A Upper State baseball and softball finals at 5 p.m. In both cases, the Indians must lose two games to be denied a shot at the state title.
Ashley Burnett’s baseball squad (27-2) takes on Palmetto, a team it defeated 4-2 on the road in the semifinal round on Saturday. Palmetto earned another shot at Tribe with a 3-2 win over Strom Thurmond on Wednesday. Gilbert is looking to earn its first trip to the finals since 2008, the fifth in program history. The Indians have three titles on the books – 1987, 2006, 2008.
Reuben Eargle’s softball team also draws Palmetto in the Upper State finale. The Indians defeated the Mustangs 2-1 on the road in the first round, and advanced as the unbeaten team to the finals by beating Crescent for the first time in the semifinals. Palmetto eliminated Crescent, 2-1, on Wednesday. The Indians have never won a state title, and made it to the finals just one time in 1994. The Tribe fell to Crescent in straight sets in the championship series 18 years ago.
A.C. Flora is the other Midlands team at home tonight needing just one win to advance. The Falcons take on Midlands/Region 5 archrival Chapin in yet another showdown between two of the area’s elite programs. Flora (22-7) has won 11 of its last 12 games since a disappointing showing at its own Forest Acres Classic spring break tournament, including a 5-0 run in the playoffs to date. Chapin (22-5) stayed alive by eliminating defending state champion St. James with a 10-2 win last night in Murrells Inlet. Flora has made it to the state series six times and is 2-2 in the state sets under coach Andy Hallett with the last successful title run coming in 2007. Chapin’s tradition runs deeper and far longer. The Eagles have played for a state title 15 times, starting in 1952, and secured 10 championships – second only to Bamberg-Ehrhardt on the all-time list. Three of the titles have been on Scott McLeod’s watch – 2002, 2001, 1996.
Lexington stayed in the Class 4A Lower State mix by eliminating archrival White Knoll, 5-1, last night. The reward is a long road trip to Summerville for a potential doubleheader at Ashley Ridge. The Swamp Foxes ended the Wildcats’ 15-game winning streak in the semifinals on Saturday on the same field. Lexington gets its last shot at revenge tonight. The Wildcats (27-3) need two wins to return to the state championship series for the first time since 2003. Lexington’s glorious diamond resume features 11 trips to the finals and six state titles.