Gray Collegiate playing for state title

By Thomas Grant Jr.

The post-season status for the Gray Collegiate baseball team remained uncertain as of press time.

For the second straight year, the War Eagles found themselves facing an 0-1 deficit in the Class 2A finals. On Tuesday at The Shipyard in Charleston, they looked to force a deciding game in the Best-of-Three Class 2A final against Oceanside Collegiate.

A Game Two win by Gray Collegiate would force a deciding game May 27 at a neutral site. The War Eagles found themselves trailing in the series following a 1-0 loss in Game One.

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 better 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, 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.”

Just days earlier, the War Eagles found themselves one loss away from playoff elimination. They went to Prosperity to face Mid-Carolina needing two victories to advance to the final.

Down 6-0 and entering its last at bat, Gray Collegiate mounted a dramatic comeback. The War Eagles scored seven unanswered runs, capped by a two-out grand slam off a 3-2 pitch by Blaine Redmond to take the lead.

The War Eagles went on to win 7-6 to forcing a deciding game. Once again, they needed late game heroics to extend their season as Kendrick Wright scored off an error in centerfield in the bottom of the seventh inning for the 4-3 victory.

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 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)