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Legion Collegiate uses 9 Run Inning To Defeats Andrew Jackson 10-7 & Earn SCHSL AA Baseball Title

Legion Collegiate uses 9 Run Inning To Defeats Andrew Jackson  10-7 & Earn SCHSL AA Baseball Title

By Billy G. Baker


Lancaster—With both teams pitching staffs fully rested and available, fans from region rivals Legion Collegiate and Andrew Jackson were expecting their 5th meeting of the 2021 baseball season, in the AA baseball state finals, to be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel much like AJ’s 1-0 win in game two had been just last week.

Well, the tie-breaker game played at Lancaster High, produced a combined 17 runs, 15 hits, 21 strike-outs, 10 game changing walks, and each team committed one error. Certainly not a pitcher’s duel by anyone’s standards. Legion Collegiate, down 5-1 coming to bat in the top of the 6th, sent 15 batters to the plate, producing 9 runs and the Lancers went on to claim a 10-7 victory earning the new school their first ever baseball championship.

Legion Collegiate is head coached by Devon Lowery who grew up in Belmont, NC and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 14th round in 2001. Lowery retired from baseball in 2013 and was a coach in the Royals farm system for a few years. He has enjoyed building the Legion Collegiate baseball team into AA state champions.

“I can tell you this team has grown up over the course of the season,” said Coach Lowery after the big come-back win. “Earlier in the season if we got down four or five runs, we were losing games like that and even in the middle of the season we were losing games once we got down four or five runs. Just past the half-way of the season these guys started practicing a little different.

“We became a different team after Spring break and no matter what the score was in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and no matter how many runs we may be down, this team just learned to keep battling and keep competing their butts off, and we started winning games by never giving up,” said Coach Lowery. “We got guys on base tonight, and nobody tried to do it all by themselves. They just passed the baton down the line and you know what, it led to a 9- run inning.”

Coach Lowery said he was very proud of the senior leadership provided by the seven seniors on the team, six of whom started. The seniors were Ryan Deal, Parker Helms, Kollin Crepeau, Cody Criag, Parker Helm, Hunter Fryzowicz, and Misael Morillo.

“These seniors took a chance on me and a chance in this program by coming to a new school to play baseball and this was their first year of ever winning big, and they played with all-heart and a never die mentality, and I am just thankful our seniors are leaving as state champions,” said Coach Lowery, who also thanked his coaching staff for their hard work in the program.  

Mike Lucas has been the veteran coach at AJ for 12 seasons now. “If you had told me before the game that we were going to score seven runs tonight, or even four runs, I would have felt pretty good about our chances of winning this game,” said Coach Lucas. “Unfortunately, things happen in baseball games you simply can’t predict. I was really proud of our fans who came out tonight and supported the team and I am sure they felt the moment with us after we went up 5-1 after five innings.

“However, things just didn’t work out,” said Coach Lucas. “I have total confidence in anyone I put out there on the mound. I thought our team showed their true character in our last at bat when they battled back and scored two runs.

“We have a special player in Peavey kid who is just a sophomore and the 8th grader (Skylar Hegler) hit the home run, and he will move to catcher next year,” said Coach Lucas. “We are fortunate to have Kyle Percival and Ashton Phillips back on the mound and they are quality pitchers coming back. We have a chance to be a very good team again next year.

“When you face these pressure situation moments like we did tonight you are better prepared the next time you face them,” said Coach Lucas. “We will miss the three seniors on the team, Bry Neal, Gavin Phillips (going to USC-Salk) and Brandon Williams who started some at first this season but we have everyone else back. I hope to coach as long as I am healthy and I am very proud of this team and how they battled all season.”       

    Starting AJA junior pitcher Kyle Percival, a 6-5 left-handed Wake Forest commitment, returned to the mound for the start of the sixth inning with his team fresh off a four- run uprising in the bottom of the 5th that gave the Volunteers a 5-1 lead.  The Lancers had 9-1-2 up in the batting order to start the 6th inning and it was the third at-bat for them as they faced the crafty lefty with a great curve ball.  Jonathan Douglas started things off with single to center and Kollin Crepeau reached on an infield single and then Hunter Fryzowicz singles to left scoring Douglas and the score is now 5-2 as Crepeau advances to third.

Jack Killeiea then singles to left field to score Crepeau and Fryzowicz to cut the lead to 5-4 with no-outs. Clean-up batter Ethan Belk draws a walk. At this point AJ head coach Mike Lucas makes a pitching change with Percival tiring at 92 pitches, with five allowed hits and 7 K’s to his credit. Number two junior pitcher, Ashton Phillips, a College of Charleston pledge, comes in cold from right field. Phillips walks Devin Parks to load the bases. Shortstop Colby Guy then draws a bases loaded walk scoring courtesy runner William Sprang to tie the score at 5-5 as Belk advanced to third and Parks to second. Cody Craig then walks scoring Belk to give LC a 6-5 win.

Then D-H Ryan Deal delivers the big hit of the inning, a double to the right center power alley that produces three runs as Parks, Guy and Craig score to make it a 9-5 game. At this point Landon Peavey moves from shortstop to the pitcher’s mound in relief of Phillips. Peavey throws 16 pitches in walking Douglas to put runners on first and second, then Deal scores the 9th run of the inning on a wild pitch to make it 10-5, and then Crepeau and Fryzowicz draw back-to-back walks and the Volunteers make their fourth pitching change of the inning and it is a good one as senior Bry Neal moves to the mound from third base and strikes out the next three Lancer batters to end the 9-run inning that brought 15 batters to the plate.

After Neal struck-out three of the four batters from LC in the top of the 7th AJ didn’t quit down five runs in the bottom of the 7th.  With two-out Peavey lined a double to the left field power alley and Phillips came up with a triple to the fence in right center field to score Peavey making it a 10-6 game. With Percival batting Phillips scored on a wild pitch to make it a 10-7 game and one pitch later Percival singled. Then the final A-J batter of the game struck-out to end the game.    

AJ scored one run in the 4th on a double by Phillips who made it to third on an errant throw in. Then a balk by starting pitcher Xavier Pelzer scored Phillips to tie the game 1-1.

Then in the bottom of the 5th AJ sent 9 batters to the plate scoring four runs to take a 5-1 lead and it appeared the school might finally win a state title in the 2020-21 school year after competing very hard but coming up short in three other state finals during the season. After AndrewMayberryTaylor reached on an infield single 8th grader Skylar Hegler hit a two- run homer to put AJ up 3-1. Hammond Wren then walked chasing Pelzer and Joey Hylinski came on in relief.  Bryce Helms and Phillips then got back-to-back singles a Phillips brings them both in on a double to make the score 5-1.

Legion Collegiate scored the game’s first run in the second inning when lead-off batter Devin parks singled, made it to second on a throwing error, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a ground-out RBI by Colby Guy.  

In the game AJ out-hit LC 9-8 with Phillips and Peavey leading the hit index with 3 and two hits each. Phillips and Hegler had three and two RRI’s to lead AJ in that category.

LC was led on the hit index by Killelea and Guy with two hits each and Deal led with three RBI’s.  

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