AIKEN 5, SOUTH AIKEN 1
Prior to Tuesday night it had been a while since Aiken (8-3, 4-1 Region 5-AAAA) picked up a victory over crosstown rival South Aiken (0-4, 0-4) on the diamond. However, the Hornets used a strong pitching performance from Brandon Miller and timely hitting to come up with a 5-1 victory over their region foe on a chilly night at The Lumber Yard.
“It's nice to get a win, and when it's against your crosstown rival its even sweeter,” first-year Aiken head coach Kevin Lynn said. “I've been a part of this region for the last several years (as an assistant) with North Augusta, but its good to be in this city rivalry.”
Aiken picked up a run in the first inning. After a leadoff walk, Caleb Heath stole second base and advanced to third on an errant throw. Alex Conaway then drove him in with a single. For the next two innings, South Aiken flirted with scoring opportunities.
The T-Breds had runners on the corners in the bottom of the first but grounded into a double play that ended the inning. In the third inning South Aiken loaded the bases with two out only to leave them that way as Miller again got out of a jam.
“He's just a gamer. He comes at you and wants to win,” Lynn said of his starting pitcher, who struck out five in a complete-game performance. “He's as competitive of a kid I've ever had. He's one of those guys you don't have to say much to get him ready. All night, he came at hitters and challenged them. When he's on like that, he's tough to beat. We got the lead and he did what he was supposed to do. He competed tonight, and that's what we needed.”
Miller surrendered his only run in the fourth inning when Will Varnadore reached on an error and advanced on a stolen base followed by a wild pitch. He came in to score on a Mars Flores RBI single.
Aiken wasted no time getting back on top in the game and got help from the T-Breds' defense. With runners on second and third and two out in the fifth inning, Bryan Schmid reached base on an error by South Aiken allowing Heath to score.
Later in the same inning Will Holbrook walked in a run. At that point Miller made something happen at the plate as well. His double with the bases loaded scored two runs for the Hornets to stretch the lead to 5-1. The rough inning for the T-Breds highlighted what head coach Bob Polewski said was the problem for his team in the game.
“You've got to execute. What Aiken did is execute with runners in scoring position, and we didn't. Hats off to them,” Polewski said after the game. “Every single play in our region can have an affect on the outcome. One play today, we don't come up with a routine play and they capitalized on our mistakes and that's what teams who are 4-1 in the region do.”
Conaway finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI and Miller had two RBIs.
Flores went 2-for-3 for the T-Breds and had the lone RBI.
The result put the two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum in the region race. South Aiken finds itself at the bottom of the pack looking up, while The Hornets have gotten off to a good start. The Hornets are currently second in the region.
“Hopefully we can keep winning,” Lynn said of his team, which still has its sights set on a possible region title. “The more wins we have the better chance we have at a good seed in the playoffs. We can still win the region after this big win tonight. For now, we just need to worry about ourselves and keep winning and building that confidence.”
While Polewski was also focused on winning, instead of playoff seeding, he was concerned about his teams chances to get in the playoff picture after the loss. The T-Breds are winless in region play and still have road games at Dutch Fork and White Knoll on the schedule.
“It is an uphill battle for us to try and get back into the playoff picture,” Polewski said. “Right now, all we can do is worry about us one game at a time and try to get back into it.”
South Aiken's next game is against Dutch Fork on Friday. Aiken will continue its region schedule as it travels to play the Silver Foxes on Tuesday.
Aiken 100 040 0 — 5 9 2
South Aiken 000 100 0 — 1 6 1
WP: Brandon Miller
LP: Will Holbrook
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken with a degree in communications.
Staff Photo by Eric Russell Brandon Miller delivers a pitch to Stokes Griffith during the Hornets 5-1 victory over South Aiken.×
Staff Photo By Eric Russell Aiken's Alex Conaway makes contact with a pitch during the Hornets' 5-1 victory over South Aiken on Tuesday.×
Staff Photo by Eric Russell Aiken's Brandon Miller (13) prepares to deliver a pitch during the Hornets' 5-1 win over South Aiken.×