By Thomas Grant Jr.
For the second straight year, Gray Collegiate baseball saw its championship quest end with a loss in the state final.
This time, the War Eagles were swept in two games by fellow charter school Oceanside Collegiate.
They dropped Game 1 by a 1-0 score at Midlands Sports Complex in West Columbia.
A Briggs Sullivan RBI sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning was the lone run allowed by Gray Collegiate All-State starter Brent Stukes. He threw 110 pitches in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and allowing just five hits for his sixth no-decision of the year.
The War Eagles’ bats fared less well against the Landsharks’ pitching staff. The trio of starter Andrew Bowers and relievers Jake Klein and Jackson Sobel held Gray Collegiate to just two hits, struck out 10 batters and walked five.
The War Eagles, which lost to Andrew Jackson in last year’s final, also stranded 11 baserunners and were unable to capitalize on the bases loaded in both the first and sixth innings.
“We get thrown out at the plate because we don’t get the proper lead and get a jump off the base when we needed it,” said Gray Collegiate head coach Charles Assey Sr. about the first missed scoring opportunity. “But that’s kids making mistakes. But this time of the year, those are magnified when you get in this type of environment here and you just can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes.
“And then the bases loaded situation with nobody out (in the sixth inning), that was a killer right there. You had a chance to get you a couple of ground balls and get two runs in and go out and get three outs…but it just didn’t happen. It didn’t happen.”
A final scoring opportunity occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning. Gray Collegiate had runners on first and second with two outs when Sobel entered the game and struck out Landon Turner for the final out.
“So our backs to the wall,” Assey said. “We’ve got to win one down there and, hopefully, we can play next Saturday. That’s the goal now is to play next Saturday.”
Game 2 took place at The Shipyard in Charleston. Once again, the Gray Collegiate offense struggled with only two hits as they fell 4-2.
The Landsharks, which won the Class 3A title last year, scored all of its runs in the first inning. Gray Collegiate scored its runs in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Stukes and bases-loaded walk by Zeb Taylor.
The War Eagles (26-9) had the bases loaded with two outs, but Austin Lloyd struck out. They retired in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.
While Gray Collegiate reached the state finals, Brookland-Cayce came up a game short. The Bearcats forced a deciding game in the Class 3A Lower State final at Hanahan after winning Game One 5-2.
Brookland-Cayce jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning as it capitalized off three Hawks’ errors. Hayden Thomas proceeded to allow just five hits and two runs and struck out 10 in six innings for the win.
Both Jackson Thomas and B.J. Etheridge had two RBI each for the Bearcats.
The momentum did not carryover for Brookland-Cayce in Game Two. It managed only two hits in the 3-1 loss to the Hawks.
Jackson Thomas allowed just two hits and struck out four but gave up the go-ahead 2-run single in the third inning to put Hanahan up for good.
Jordon Gibbs drove in the lone run for Brookland-Cayce with an RBI single.
All-State, All-Star selections
A total of eight local players were named to the Baseball Coaches Association of South Carolina’s All-State teams:
Class 5A: Kevin Samonsky (Dutch Fork)
Class 4A: Corbin Wright (Airport)
Class 3A: B.J. Etheridge, Ty Marshall, and Hayden Thomas (all of Brookland-Cayce)
Class 2A: Blaine Redmond and Brent Stukes (both of Gray Collegiate)
Five of the players also participated in the BCASC’s All-Star Games that took place this week.
Wright took part in the North-South Select games. He and Stukes played for co-coach Assey on the North team, while Samonsky and Thomas represented the South. Marshall was named to the South 3A/4A team and Chapin’s Vincent Santostefano and Lucas Highberger played for the South 5A/2A/A team. The North 5A/2A/A team had Mid-Carolina’s Hayden Lake and Jace Martin.