Flora, Airport put title bids on the line

05/13/2013 1:06 PM

05/13/2013 1:09 PM

A.C. Flora and Airport are looking to secure berths in the Class 3A state championship baseball series by completing Elite Eight sweeps at home on Monday.

Top-ranked defending state champion A.C. Flora (23-6) hosts Eastside in the Upper State finals starting at 5 p.m. Eastside must win two games to keep the Falcons from reaching the state title series for the sixth time under coach Andy Hallett since 2001.

Flora is expected to send Banks Cromer (3-0) to the mound for the title-clinching shot.

The Falcons advanced to the finals round with a dramatic, 6-5 semifinal win over Travelers Rest on Donald Gillespie’s walk-off, three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Airport (25-3) has breezed to two Lower State wins, downing Socastee (9-3) and James Island (10-1) to move within one game of reaching the state finals for the first time in 29 years and getting a shot at winning the first state title in program history.

The Eagles were 4A finalists two times in three seasons under coach Tommy Whitt, but came up short against Beaufort in 1982 and Summerville in 1984.

Airport, which is 5-0 in the playoffs to date, has stayed on rotation with its pitching staff. No. 3 starter Forrest Arnold (5-0) has the honor of starting another title-clinching game today at 5 p.m. against Socastee. The lanky right-hander was on the hill when the Eagles completed a District 5 sweep with a 5-1 win against Manning.

If the Eagles do advance, it will be with its single-season school-record 26th win.

Airport won four games in 2012 in Tim Perry’s first season as the head coach.

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