AIKEN 4-6 GREER 3-5
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
After proving it could win a blowout in its opener, the Aiken Post 26 team proved it could win close games, notching 4-3 and 6-5 wins in an American Legion doubleheader against Greer on Saturday.
Coupled with a 16-3 win over Belton on Wednesday, the Aiken team is now 3-0 in its first season since 1999.
“We’ve got a lot to learn. Baseball is a game of learning,” said head coach Richard Abney. “It’s always fun when you win.”
After a scoreless first inning in the first game, Aiken struck in the bottom of the second. Catcher Keaton Allison reached on an error, stole second and then beat a fielder’s choice throw to take third. Pitcher Nick Grover reached on the play and then stole second, and Allison scored when Greer (2-4) catcher Will Pitts tried to throw Grover out.
Aiken notched two more runs in the third, this time taking advantage of a hit batter, a steal, a grounder, an error and another double-steal play. Patrick Ferguson also had an RBI single, the only hit Aiken needed to build a 3-0 lead through three innings.
Abney’s squad stole six bases in the first game and 10 total during the twinbill.
“That’s the way we’re going to have to play,” he said. “We’ve got some kids with some speed.”
Greer answered in the top of the fifth after loading the bases with a single by Scott Hutto, a walk by Clark Derrick and a strikeout with a passed ball that allowed Pitts to reach. Grover struck out leadoff hitter Colt Leapord and walked Christian Kontowsky to allow a run before going 2-0 on Brayden Edwards.
He was replaced there by Luke Nichols, who got a possible double-play ball off the bat of Edwards, but Edwards reached to drive in another run. Brandon Wortkoetter singled home a third run to tie the game, with all three being credited to Grover.
Nichols (1-0) held Greer right there over his 2? innings to close out the game and struck out two. Greer starter Tyler Kruglewicz did the same, keeping Aiken off the board until he came out after an error allowed AJ Hembree to reach in the bottom of the seventh. Wortkoetter replaced him, and Hembree stole second and went to third on a throwing error, but Hembree was erased at home on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Matthew Abney. Connor Howell followed with a single, and Austin O’Shields was hit by a pitch ahead of the game-winning RBI single by Ferguson, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the game.
While Aiken only managed five hits in the game, Abney’s players put pressure on the Greer defense, as the home team didn’t strike out at all in the first game.
“I think that’s the kind of team we’re going to have,” Abney said of the all-fields hitting approached that allowed for so much contact. “It’ll work for them not only this summer but as they go up to different levels.”
Playing as the visitors in the second game, Aiken wasted little time riding the momentum of the opening victory. Howell and Abney led the first inning off with walks, and Howell scored on a stolen base and two wild pitches.
Ferguson followed with a single, and Jimmy Carver reached on an error ahead of a double by Corey Lucas, which plated two runs and gave Aiken another 3-0 lead.
Greer answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, as Kontowsky notched a leadoff double, advanced on a groundout and then scored on an error.
Aiken loaded the bases again in the third, but Post 26 managed just one run on a sacrifice fly by Mitchell, as Lucas was thrown out at home trying to score on a wild pitch and Hembree ended the inning with a flyout.
Greer scored four runs over the next two innings, but Aiken held the lead on the strength of a two-run fourth inning that saw Braxton Copley double and score on an error and Ferguson drive home O’Shields with a groundout.
That made the score 6-5, which held thanks to some good relief pitching. Nichols started the game and threw three innings before Howell replaced him and allowed two runs in 2? innings to pick up the win. Then Carver came on for the last 1? innings, striking out four of five batters he faced.
“He really came through,” Abney said of Carver’s save, which was his first time pitching in a couple years. “He just jumped out there and bored it in there.”
Carver’s brother, Jesse, caught the last three innings and threw out two base stealers, including the only batter to reach against his older brother.
Ferguson again went 2-for-4 in the second game, as Aiken again notched five hits but walked six times, including three by Howell, to secure the doubleheader sweep.
“To come out and win, I think it builds momentum,” Abney said. “It just builds interest in the program.”
Aiken Post 26 will be back in action Monday at 6 p.m., when the team hosts Midland Valley’s summer league team at Aiken High School.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.
Greer 000 030 0 — 3 3 4
Aiken 012 000 1 — 4 5 0
Win: Luke Nichols (1-0); Loss: Brandon Wortkoetter
Aiken 301 200 0 — 6 5 5
Greer 102 200 0 — 5 8 4
Win: Connor Howell (1-0); Loss: Clark Derrick; Save: Jimmy Carver (1)
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Aiken Post 26's Austin O'Shields makes a running catch against Greer Post 115.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Aiken Post 26's Jimmy Carver delivers a pitch against Greer Post 115.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Aiken's Keaton Allison squares for contact agianst Greer Post 115 on Saturday.×