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KERSHAW – The Andrew Jackson Volunteers, in baseball terms, went 1-2 on Wednesday, May 1, which was good enough for some AJ baseball fame.
The Vols, 16-10, split a twin bill, with the nightcap win worthy of a diamond toast.
AJ’s 14-7 win over Region IV-AA rival Central of Pageland gave the Vols their third district baseball championship in school history – the first since 1985.
“This is great for the school and community,” AJ coach Mike Lucas said. “Central gave us a challenge, but we stepped up and handled adversity.”
The Eagles, the Region IV-AA regular-season runner-up and an 18-9 finisher for the spring, needed two wins Wednesday to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Eagles showed they were up to the task, taking a 10-6 win in the opener to force the do-or-die second game.
The Vols turned to senior right-hander Tripp Rollings, who superbly answered the call with a six-inning, 15-strikeout effort. Rollings, 7-1, walked four and allowed one earned run and three unearned runs.
“Tripp gave us what we needed,” Lucas said. “Central battled and brought the fight to us tonight, but we responded.”
The Vols, even before Rollings threw a pitch, ignited for four runs in the top of the first inning.
“That was important since we were coming off the first-game loss,” Lucas said. “We showed maturity to put that first-game loss behind us and put our focus on the task at hand. Our plate patience was the key.”
Central scratched for a run in the bottom of the first to make it 4-1, and it stayed that way to the AJ fourth when Kipp Rollings, Tripp’s brother, unloaded a towering two-run home run to left field for a 6-1 AJ spread.
“That was a big hit and I’m glad he came through,” said Tripp Rollings of his brother’s long ball. “At that point, we just needed someone to come through and Kipp did.”
Kipp Rollings was a key clog in a 14-hit offense, drilling two hits and driving in three runs.
The Vols broke it open in the late stages, building a 14-3 in the top of the seventh before the Eagles rallied to make it closer at the end.
Tripp Rollings aided his cause with two singles, four walks and three runs. Chandler Neal had two hits and a RBI.
Catcher Seth Graves, who drew Lucas’ praise for his solid play behind the plate in both games, drilled three hits and drove in two runs. Austin Wrape rapped two hits and drove in three runs. Sidney Watson had two hits and a pair of RBIs. Corley Faulkenberry had a hit and tallied a run.
In the opener, the Eagles showed off the bat, they weren’t going down easy.
Central ignited for eight first-inning runs on five hits and four errors on the way to building an early lead.
AJ rallied to make it 8-6, but Central answered with two runs to take the four-run win.
Chandler Neal, who went two-thirds of an inning, took the loss. Austin Wrape, who worked 5.1 innings and allowed a run, kept it close before the Eagles added their late runs to seal the win.
Trey Sowell, who worked five frames, was the winner. Sowell had two hits and drove in a run to aid his cause.
Robbie Burch drilled three hits, scored two runs and drove in two runs. Cody Hall had two hits and a RBI.
AJ’s Chandler Neal drilled two hits, including a triple, and drove in three runs. Gunnar Lucas supplied two hits and drove in two runs. Austin Wrape supplied a three-run double.
Tripp Rollings had a hit and drew two walks. Corley Faulkenberry, Kipp Rollings and Dustin Eddins each had a hit.
“Even though we fell short in the first game, the way we came back in an adverse situation gave us a spark for game two,” Lucas said. “We knew it would be a battle and we kept fighting.”
The Vols will host the winner of the Chesterfield vs. Cheraw game on Saturday, May 4 at 4 p.m. The two teams were slated to play Wednesday, but the game was moved to Thursday due to the death of Cheraw High boys basketball coach Terrence Ford, who died of an apparent heart attack on Wednesday, May 1.