For the second year in a row the Chapin baseball team will enter the Class 3A state playoffs as a No. 1 seed.
A year ago, the Eagles shared the Region 4 championship with Lugoff-Elgin and rated the top seed thanks to a tie-breaking edge. This time, Chapin earned top billing for winning the Region 5-3A title outright.
Scott McLeod’s team made it official on Thursday, securing the pennant with a 4-2 showdown win over visiting A.C. Flora. The Eagles closed the regular season with a 21-8 overall record and a 9-3 region mark.
“We lost the first region game of the season 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning at Brookland-Cayce, and I told the kids then that the champion in this region could have four losses,” said McLeod.
“I was only one off, but the point is we all knew it was going to be a tough region. This is a nice accomplishment for these kids, and tonight was a sweet way to do it. We played like we have all season. We’re weren’t flashy, but we were scrappy and found a way to get the job done.”
The loss left Flora is a position to finish no higher than third place in the standings, and could end up as low as the No. 5 seed depending on the outcome of its final game against Dreher.
“We gave up three unearned runs, and that was the difference,” said Falcons coach Andy Hallett. “When you give good teams extra outs, it usually comes back to haunt you.”
ACF scored two runs on just one hit to take a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning before Chapin starter Cole Lee got into the flow. Lee issued one walk and a hit one Falcons batter in the opening frame. Roy Faulks followed with ACF’s only RBI hit of the game after Aaron Poole scored the first run of the contest on a passed ball.
Falcons left-hander Player Loving was outstanding in defeat, allowing just five hits with six strikeouts. The defense led Loving down - two Falcons errors led to three Chapin runs.
Loving retired the first 10 Chapin hitters he faced before Will Clary singled through the hole in the fourth inning. Clary scored the Eagles first run on Lee’s double off the left field fence. Lee came in with the equalizer on a Falcon defensive miscue.
Chapin forged ahead with two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Clary delivered the game-winning blow – a two-run, two-run single to plate Nick Beline and Cole Morris. A Flora error extended the inning and gave Clary the chance to be the hero.
In the end, Lee, who improved to 8-0 on the season, blanked the Falcons over the final six inning. But he had to work his way out of several jams – none bigger than in the top of the seventh when the Falcons had runners on second and third base with one out. Lee ended the suspense by fanning Houser on a 3-2 pitch and getting cleanup hitter Faulks to fly out to right field.
“Cole’s a competitor,” said McLeod. “He’s won every big game for us, and tonight was another one.”
Poole was the ACF offensive star, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored.