Since at least the 2006 season, the area’s teams have not experienced the volume of success they have this year.
Four teams won their four-team districts last week – South Aiken baseball, Fox Creek baseball, Fox Creek softball and Silver Bluff softball – and three won their first game at the next level. The fourth, Fox Creek softball, had its game rained out on Saturday.
After finishing second in Region 5-AAAA in the regular season, South Aiken (19-9) has won all four games it has played in the Class AAAA playoffs. The T-Breds, ranked No. 10 in the last South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association poll, first knocked off Richland Northeast and then beat No. 6 Conway twice to win District 8. On Saturday, they opened up play in the Lower State title bracket with a 6-1 win over No. 7 Sumter.
“We can’t take our foot off the accelerator,” said Bob Polewski, South Aiken head coach.
The T-Breds will next play at Lexington, the top-ranked team in the state and Region 5-AAAA champions, today at 6 p.m. The Wildcats got the best of South Aiken twice this year, and Polewski said he’ll be pitching senior Jamie Morlan in the rematch.
Region 4-A champion and Class A No. 4 Fox Creek (24-2) won its Upper State bracket baseball game on Saturday 10-2 over No. 3 Lamar – the defending Lower State champion – after winning three straight games to take District 4 in the Class A playoffs. The Predators first beat Great Falls 10-0, then beat Ware Shoals 10-2 and topped Christ Church 5-4 on a walkoff to take the district.
The next task is a tall one for Fox Creek, though, as they’ll host No. 1 St. Joseph’s, the defending state champions, today at 6 p.m. at Riverview Park. The Knights have lost only one game each of the last two years.
In softball, the Predators (19-6-1) also won Region 4-A and District 4, but they lost a game in district play, making their road a bit longer.
Fox Creek, ranked No. 3 in the last coaches’ poll, blasted Great Falls 17-2 in its playoff opener but then lost to Southside Christian 9-8. The Predators then went on a tear of three straight shutouts – 6-0 over Ware Shoals and 6-0, 16-0 over Southside Christian – to win the district.
Fox Creek was set to play No. 6 Lewisville on Saturday in the Upper State bracket, but the wet weather forced the teams to postpone and instead play their game today at 5 p.m. at Fox Creek High School. Fox Creek’s Stefanie Bloedel will likely be in the circle after pitching both shutouts against Southside Christian.
Rounding out the group of area teams still fighting for state titles on the diamond is Silver Bluff (14-10). After finishing the season as the No. 2 seed in Region 5-AA and unranked in the state poll, the Lady Dogs didn’t allow a run in District 6 play. They beat Academic Magnet 14-0 and then took two straight over Bishop England, 6-0 and 2-0, to advance to the Lower State title bracket. There, Silver Bluff knocked off Region 5-AA champion and No. 7 Barnwell in Petticoat Junction by a score of 9-1.
Despite finishing second in their region, the Lady Dogs have played mostly at home, with the exception of their first game against Bishop England. Head coach Eric Hofstetter said his team’s unique field makes playing at home an even bigger edge than usual.
“It’s always a good experience,” he said. “Our field’s a little different because we have a grass infield ... so it gives us a little advantage.”
Most softball infields are all dirt, and next to test the Lady Dogs’ turf will be No. 5 Waccamaw, likely against Silver Bluff ace Karly Kinard. The Warriors have been a factor in the Class AA playoffs for the last several years, having won the state title in 2010 after finishing as runners-up to Crescent in 2009.
“They’ve been a solid team the last four or five years,” Hofstetter said.
Since none of the four area teams have lost yet at this stage of the playoffs, all are guaranteed another game, win or lose in tonight’s contests.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
• South Aiken at Lexington, 5 p.m.
• St. Joseph’s at Fox Creek, 6 p.m. (Riverview Park)
• Lewisville at Fox Creek, 5 p.m. (FCHS)
• Waccamaw at Silver Bluff, 6 p.m.
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Fox Creek's Forrest Whitfield attempts a double play against Lamar on Saturday.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aiken's Jamie Morlan delivers a pitch against Conway on Wednesday. Morlan pitched a complete game to collect the 3-2 T-Bred win.×
Staff File Photo by Scott Rodgers Pitcher Stefanie Bloedel is scheduled to lead Fox Creek against Lewisville today.×