Cardinal Newman has been hard to beat at home this season and showed why Monday night.
The Cardinals got a strong pitching performance and held off a late Ben Lippen rally for the 3-1 win in game one of the best-of-three SCISA 3A baseball championship series.
Cardinal Newman, which improved to 14-0 at home, can win its first title since 1998 with a win Tuesday at Ben Lippen. A Falcon win forces a deciding game Thursday at Lexington County Blowfish Stadium.
“We knew it was our last time playing home no matter what,” Cardinal Newman coach Charles Assey said. “And going against Nat Turner, their guy, he is good. So we felt if we could get this one at home, it would be big. But there is a lot of baseball left to play. Those cats over there aren’t done.”
Senior Gage Jeffcoat pitched 6 1/3 strong innings in defeating the Falcons for the third time this year. The right-hander gave up one hit, walked two and struck out 11 before exiting because of pitch-count limit.
Ben Lippen took advantage of Jeffcoat’s departure. With one out, Alden Gibbs doubled off Charlie Patten and Ryan Ashe followed with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error.
Gibbs scored on a Cardinals error to get Ben Lippen within 3-1. Assey brought in Jake Rehling, who threw a wild pitch to give the Falcons runners on second and third with one out.
But Rehling settled down by striking out Will Taylor and getting Nat Turner to ground out to end the game for his second save of the season.
Tanner Garrison led the Cardinals (23-7) with two hits.
Turner took the loss for the Falcons (19-5), giving up three unearned runs on four hits in six innings. Ben Lippen’s defense committed four errors.
Cardinal Newman used one of those errors to take a 1-0 lead in the first. The Cardinals added two more in the third on AJ DePalma and Jeffcoat groundouts to make it 3-0.
“With a three-game series, I’m not worried what order you get the two wins in,” Ben Lippen coach Matt Padgett said. “Gage pitched really well against us and for whatever reason, we can’t get anything going against them. I think maybe the moment got us on a couple of the at-bats, but we are going to be ready to come out tomorrow and put a good effort out there.”