Raw video: Hammond celebrates baseball state championship
Nothing has come easy in the postseason for the Hammond baseball team, and that continued Thursday during the deciding game of the SCISA 3A championship series.
The Skyhawks erased an early five-run deficit and then scored four runs in the ninth inning to defeat Ben Lippen 11-7 in front of a standing-room only crowd at Lexington County Blowfish Stadium.
The Skyhawks dropped the opening game of the series but won the next two for the program’s first state title since 2013. All three of Hammond’s playoff series went to three games.
“Everything just clicked in the playoffs,” Hammond coach Chris Braciszewski said. “We never gave up. We were in a lot of games like this and we just battled back. I’m just so proud of them I don’t know what to say.”
The title comes in coach Braciszewski’s first season as Skyhawks head coach. An assistant last year, Braciszewski was part of four state titles as an assistant coach at A.C. Flora.
The Skyhawks got a big lift from freshman Jack Weston, who entered the game in the second inning after the first two Hammond pitchers struggled.
But the right-hander shined in his 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief. Weston gave up just four hits, walked one and struck out nine. Ben Lippen had 10 hits in the first two innings but just four the rest of the game.
Blake Weinbach came in and got the final two outs of the game.
“I was hoping to get one or two innings out of Weston,” Braciszewski said. “He came in and just shoved. I’m just so proud of him. That big of a moment for him to come in and pitch like he did.”
Weston said he was a little nervous at first but calmed down after striking out his first batter.
“I just came in and threw strikes and do what I could,” Weston said.
Weston, Tucker Toman and Reece Holbrook all had two hits apiece for the Skyhawks. Brig Brannon had the go-ahead RBI in the ninth inning.
Hammond trailed 7-2 going into the fourth inning. But the Skyhawks cut the lead to 7-3 on Holbrook’s RBI single. The Skyhawks had chance to cut further into the lead but Toman lined out to first with bases loaded to end the inning.
In the fifth, Hammond scored four runs to tie it at 7-7 without getting a hit. Ben Lippen committed two errors, walked two and hit three batters in the inning.
The score stayed that way into the ninth. Harris Jackson got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on bunt. The Skyhawks loaded the bases after pair of intentional walks and a fielder’s choice.
Then, Brannon delivered a single to left to score Jackson and Graham Wilson to make it 9-7. Hammond added two more runs in the inning.
“I knew if I put the ball in play, something good would happen. I actually thought I grounded out but it went through,” Brannon said. “We went to three games in all three series and we fought and fought. We worked our butts off for this. This feels incredible.”
It was the second straight year the Falcons lost in the title game. Falcons players gathered down the first base line reflecting on the season and making it back to title game.
“It was a great series, both sides played hard and it stinks to be on this side of it,” Ben Lippen coach Matt Padgett said. “It is tough to have the lead and not hold on to it. But I am just proud of my guys. They wanted to get back here. We went to game three with a five-run lead. It just didn’t work out for us but I am proud of them.
Will Taylor had three hits and three RBIs to lead Ben Lippen. Taylor’s three-run triple put the Falcons up 4-2. Tripp Williams, Jake Eargle, RJ Samellas and Madison Matthews also had RBIs in the inning.
WP: Jack Weston LP: Eli Johnson Hitters: H: Reece Holbrook 2-4 RBI; Tucker Toman 2-4 RBI; Brig Brannon 1-5 2 RBI; Jack Weston 2-6 RBI; Mason Harrington 1-3 RBI; Harris Jackson 1-5 RBI. BL: RJ Samellas 2-5 RBI; Will Taylor 3-4 3 RBI; Tripp Williams 1-4 RBI; Madison Matthews 2-5 RBI; Jake Eargle 2-5 RBI