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The Lancaster American Legion Post 31 junior baseball team hoped for better in the state tournament, but it didn’t happen.
The Lancaster juniors went 1-2 in three tournament outings in the eight-team field, seeing their season end in a loss to Union Post 22.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t win and come up short,” Lancaster junior team coach Brant Barnes said.
Lancaster’s final game was a 13-3 loss to a Union team, which it had beaten twice in three regular-season meetings during League V play.
“That was the tough part because we had beaten them during the season,” Barnes said.
Lancaster, which won the League V title with a 13-2 mark, opened the state tournament with a 3-2, extra-inning loss to Conway.
Lancaster took a 2-1 edge into the bottom of the ninth inning, but Conway tied the game on a home run and pushed across the winning run on a sacrifice fly.
“The game was a pitcher’s duel, with their pitcher going nine innings,” Barnes said. “We were three outs away, but just couldn’t close the deal.”
Lancaster starter Jordan Brock worked six innings before giving way to Doopy Cloud, who worked two innings. Chandler Neal pitched the final frame.
“We used a lot of arms in the first game, but our guys bounced back the next game and took a 7-5 win over Darlington,” Barnes said. “I felt we were back on track, but it didn’t work out for us.”
After the two-run win over Darlington, Lancaster faced Union, which ended the P-31 juniors’ postseason run with the 10-run win.
Union was eliminated by Florence, 15-6, which went on to capture its fourth state crown. Florence Post 1, which won three games in the final two days, defeated Socastee 11-1 to capture the state title.
Florence’s Andrew Stanley, who was the winning pitcher in the state title game, was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Zach Herndon won the tournament MVP.
“We didn’t do the things we did to get to the state tournament,” Barnes said. “We felt a key in our season was producing at the plate and we didn’t produce the runs when we needed them.”
Barnes said he was grateful for the players and the assistant coaches, Quinton Rodgers and Palmer Hudson.
“Those guys did an outstanding job and were a key part of our success,” Barnes said. “Scott Cato, our athletic officer, did a fantastic job this season. He made our job easier. Whatever we needed, he was always supportive of our team. Scott makes things go with our Legion baseball program.”
Cato said he was thankful for the fans, parents, sponsors, including team sponsor Founders Federal Credit Union.
“The support from the community was outstanding,” Cato said. “We had a good following throughout the season and our parents were behind the team for the duration.”
Barnes added veteran supporter Gene Wallace, who handles the gate at Legion games, was a tireless worker for the program.
“You could count on Gene,” Barnes said. “He has been with our Legion baseball program for many years and does his part to help out. This season was a learning experience for me as a first-year coach and Scott as a first-year athletic officer, but Gene made it that much better. It would be tough to do it without him.”