Spring Valley closed out its Region 4-4A campaign with a 7-6 win at Lugoff-Elgin’s Optimist Field on Tuesday, assuring itself of a home date in the first round of the approaching Class 4A state baseball playoffs.
Charlie Wentzky’s Vikings closed with a 10-2 conference record and is assured of no worse than a second place finish. Blythewood entered the new week with a one-game lead over SV and three games left.
Spring Valley opened the region season with a win over preseason favorite Blythewood and stood at 7-0 before hitting the skids in back-to-back losses against Blythewood and Richland Northeast.
“We put ourselves in this position (of possibly not winning the region championship), so it is what it is,” said Wentzky, whose team stands at 16-5 overall. “That was a tough week, but we’ve played pretty well since then and, no matter if we finish in first or second, we are going into the playoffs with a little momentum.”
The Vikings have won six of seven since the 0-2 week that coincided with the start of the MLB season.
Anthony Paulsen’s grand slam home run staked Spring Valley to a 6-4 lead in the fifth inning – an advantage it would not relinquish – but Matt Garnett’s sacrifice fly in the sixth proved to be the game-winning RBI.
Gene Cone and Taylor Guerrieri also played key offensive roles. Cone blasted a solo homer that sailed over the right field fence and on to Highway 1, and later singled and scored on Paulsen’s slam. Guerrieri hit a triple to drive in Garnett with the first run of the game in the first, singled and scored in the fifth and walked in the sixth.
Left-hander Ben Taylor five runs and seven hits before giving way to relief ace Austin Hill, who struck out six on the way to a win. But his 3.2-inning stint was anything but clear. L-E had one run in and the bases loaded with one out in the fifth before Hill got our of the jam in overwhelming fashion – fanning Jacob Young, Chance Rabon and Steven Burnham. Two errors in the bottom of the seventh inning caused some concern, but Hill whiffed Burnham for the second and a retired Josh Ruiz on a soft grounder to second base for the final out.
“We had plenty of chances, but (Hill) made some great pitches when he really needed them,” said Demons coach Randy Stokes.
Lugoff-Elgin (11-10, 4-6) finds itself in a precarious position, needing a win to wrap up a state playoff invitation in its first season in Class 4A.
“This was the one we really wanted because it would have taken off some pressure and allowed us to ease into the playoffs,” said Stokes.
The Demons, who won the 3A state title last season, face Irmo at home on Wednesday. A win clinches a spot for L-E and eliminates Irmo. If the Yellow Jackets win, the Demons chances decrease especially considering their final region game is against a Blythewood team that will be looking to put the finish touch on a region championship season. A three-way tie (also including) Dutch Fork is another possibility with one team to be left out in the cold.
L-E can end the suspense with a win over Irmo.
The top of the Demons batting order was quite productive. Leadoff man Jacob Murphy reached base three times, scoffing two runs. Blake Outlaw and Will Dorton both had two hits and two RBIs. The headliner was Chase Duncan who went 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. His two-run homer to center field staked L-E to a 4-2 lead in the third inning.
Left-hander Taylor Lunceford was roughed up – surrendering six runs and 10 hits in five innings of work.