On Monday Lexington learned it had been elevated to the No. 1 spot in the Class 4A baseball rankings.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats, a revitalized bunch under new coach Brian Hucks, clinched the Region 5-4A championship with a 7-1 win over visiting South Aiken. Lexington stands at 14-2 overall, 9-0 in region matters and can completed a perfect conference run with a win over archrival White Knoll on April 19.
“We challenged our guys to lock this thing up tonight,” said Hucks, who had a great run of success at Brookland-Cayce before getting the chance to coach at his alma mater this year.
“We didn’t want to have it come down to the last game against our rival. I have to give the guys credit because they come to work and compete every day. It’s been fun.”
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Restoring Lexington to its traditional place as an annual contender for high honors was Hucks’ top priority.
“We’ve talked about the importance of contending for championships again after a tough season last year,” he said. “We got off to a good start by winning the IP Classic (in Georgetown) and now we have a region championship, but we haven’t achieved all of our goals yet.”
Lexington finished with 14 hits, 12 coming off South Aiken ace Taylor Widener – a USC commitment.
Junior catcher Nick Ciuffo, another USC-bound player, led the way with three hits in four trips with three RBIs. Colie Bowers, Austin Bello, Collin Steagall and Michael Miller all had two hits. Bowers scored two runs, and Steagall had had two RBI singles.
Lexington junior left-hander Josh Reagan became the team’s first four-game winner, going six innings with eight strikeouts while allowing five hits and issuing two walks. Senior southpaw Dillon Hodge finished up with a perfect inning in the seventh with two strikeouts.
“Josh throws three pitches for strikes, works both sides of the plate and because he pitches to contact the guys in the field behind him stay alert because they know they are going to get some action,” said Hucks.
The Wildcat defense was flawless in the clincher.
Lexington broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third. Dalton Addy, the No. 9 batter in the order, led off with a single up the middle, but was promptly thrown out while trying to steal second base. Bowers followed with a bad hop single and Bello drew a pass from Widener. Both runners moved up on a Widener wild pitch. Ciuffo followed with a high chopper off the hard dirt in front of high plate that found its way clear into left field for a two-run hit. Courtesy runner Zack Paquette eventually came home on a two-out single by Miller.
The Wildcats put it away with three more runs in the fourth. Archie Owens and Hodge started things with infield singles. Owens dashed home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Addy. Ciuffo then singled off the center field fence with the bases loaded, plating Hodge. The reason only one run scored was Ciuffo’s high fly could just as easily been caught, forcing the runners on second and first to hold their ground. Steagall followed with a single to center field, scoring Bowers but a strong throw from South Aiken’s Blue Sanderson nailed Bello at the plate.
Ciuffo started a two-out rally in the sixth with a double to right-center field, and Steagall delivered another RBI hit.
South Aiken’s only run came on a solo home run by Widener in the fourth. It was only the second earned run charged to Reagan to date.