For the first time since 2010, Brookland-Cayce will return to the Lower State championship series.
Behind the pitching of Drew Towery, the Bearcats defeated St. James 3-1 Friday night to win District 7 in the Class 3A baseball playoffs.
It has been a big turnaround for a Brookland-Cayce team that was near .500 over halfway through the season. They came into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region 5-3A, but they swept through the district without a loss.
“We didn’t schedule easy,” Bearcats coach Charles Assey said. “We played a lot of teams early that are still playing at this point. We played that schedule with the hopes it would pay dividends later. We didn’t want to be hot early and since the last week of the regular season, we have really found our stride.”
Brookland-Cayce, which last won a baseball state title in 2008, will play on the road Monday against the winner of Gilbert and James Island in the opening round of the four-team Lower State bracket.
The Bearcats (16-9) got all the runs they would need in the first inning. DeAndre Asbury-Heath opened the bottom of the first with a bunt single before he stole second. Grant Petrey delivered a one-out single to put runners at the corners before B-C used some nifty base running to score the first run.
Petrey stole second, and Asbury-Heath executed the double-steal to score from third. Daniel Branham then laced an RBI single to make it 2-0.
That is all the support Towery would need. The left-hander faced base runners in every inning except one, but the only run for the Sharks (21-9) came on an RBI single by Trent Revis in the third inning. He scattered eight hits with four walks and a hit batter and two strikeouts. The Sharks were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and seventh.
“There was really no way he should have won that game with the way he pitched,” Assey said. “I’ve told my guys in the early going they would make their biggest pitches out of the stretch. He did absolutely what we wanted him to do with guys on base. He showed heart and guts.”
Towery admitted he didn’t have his best stuff and never really felt comfortable.
“It wasn’t one of my best performances because I was having trouble finding the strike zone, but my team picked me up with their base running, key hits and defense,” Towery said. “When I got ground balls, the defense made the plays.”
Trey Foster had an RBI single in the third inning to round out the scoring for the Bearcats.
It was then turned over to Towery and reliever Austin Hoard who each pitched out of bases-loaded jams.
In the fourth, Towery fanned No. 3 hitter Revis on a 3-2 pitch to keep the two-run cushion.
St. James got the tying runs on base in the seventh with no outs when Hoard came on. He got an infield fly for the first out before an error loaded the bases. He then registered a strikeout and a pop-up to catcher Treas Wooten to end the game.
“They had one or two hits that just dropped in, and when we had the opportunities to get a key hit, we were unable to deliver,” St. James coach Robbie Centracchio said. “We couldn’t get the key hit when we needed it, but give B-C credit, they made the pitches when they had too.”