High School Sports

Preview: 3A baseball playoffs

Obviously, the high school baseball coaches around the state were quite impressed by Lugoff-Elgin’s 6-0 win over traditional powerhouse A.C. Flora in last week’s Region 4-3A pennant showdown.

So much so, that the 17-4 Demons were elevated to the No. 1 spot in the Class 3A rankings in the final poll of the season. Nothing like a little added pressure, right? But the way L-E is playing right now, making Randy Stokes’ team the so-called team to beat makes sense.

Lugoff-Elgin, after all, sports a great talent in junior Forrest Koumas, an early commitment to South Carolina, and plenty of solid solid support personnel, especially in the batting order. Koumas is 4-1 with one save and a 0.64 ERA on the hill, and has allowed a meager 19 hits in 43.2 innings of work with 62 strikeouts. At the plate, Koumas is terrorizing enemy pitchers to the tune of a .543 batting average, complete with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 33 RBIs. Astonishingly, the opposition continues to pitch to Koumas, who has drawn only seven walks to date.

Koumas isn’t the only heavy hitter in the fold. The Demons, after all, are hitting .329 as a team, have slugged 15 homers and averaged 9.4 runs per game. Koumas has been getting lots of help from Jacob Murphy (.361, 15 RBIs), Blake Outlaw (.328, 13 RBIs), Jacob Smith (.338, 14 RBIs), Justin Ross (.292, 20 RBIs) and others.

But how far L-E advances will hinge on the pitching behind Koumas from the likes of Wesley Jackson (2-1, 4.48 ERA), Matt Cook (2-1, 4.58), Nick Mincey (3-0, 3.89) or Will Graham (4-0, 1.09).

Lugoff-Elgin hosts Blue Ridge in the first round of the District IV playoff group today. Chapin (12-9) travels to Greer in the other first-round game. In District II, Fairfield Central will start ace Justin Trapp in an effort to pull off an upset of No. 1 seed Riverside, and seventh-ranked A.C. Flora (15-8) hosts Union County. In the Lower State, District VI features top seed Camden (16-7), ninth-ranked Dreher (13-9) and Airport, while sixth-ranked Brookland-Cayce is in District V, but not as the top seed.

Flora, the 2007 state champion and last season’s state runner-up, finished second behind Lugoff-Elgin in Region 4-3A, ending a run of eight straight conference titles for the Falcons. ACF can assuage some of that sting by keeping alive a run of district titles. The last time the Falcons missed advancing to the Elite Eight porition of the playoffs was in 2002.

Defending state champion Brookland-Cayce has been scuffling of late, but the Bearcats pitching depth makes them a threat to turn things around in the playoffs. B-C boasts a 1.92 team ERA, thanks to stellar performances starters by James Hall (4-1, 4 saves, 1.64 ERA, 60 strikeouts), Michael Gilroy (6-0, 2 saves, 0.62 ERA, 59 strikeouts) and Alex Nettles (5-2, 1.11 ERA). The problem has been lack of offensive punch. B-C is hitting just .267 on the season. The one consistent producer is leadoff man Foster Stephens, who is batting .366 with 21 runs scored and 13 steals.

Camden, on the other hand, has received surprisingly lusty hitting. Coach Denny Beckley thought his team would be more pitching rich. Instead, the Bulldogs scored 172 runs and rang up a .338 team batting average. Jack LaFrage (..435, 24 runs, 21 RBIs), Robert McKinney (.405, 24 runs), Kris Nelson (.403, 21 runs, 14 RBIs) and Tyler Pike (.345, 20 RBIs) are the heavy producers. Pike staff pitching leader, as well. He sports a 5-2 record with a 2.23 ERA. Left-hander Andrew Ansley (5-0, 1.52) has been a pleasant surprise.

The Bulldogs, who share the 10th spot in the final 3A poll with Seneca, host Airport in an all-Midlands first round game at Legion Field.