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Latta Squeaks Out 4-3 Win Over Chesnee To Claim AA Baseball Championship

Latta Squeaks Out 4-3 Win Over Chesnee To Claim AA Baseball Championship

By Chris Dearing

Special Writer

Columbia--Latta knows all too well what it feels like finishing in second place. The Vikings were determined not to let it happen again Saturday in the deciding game of the Class AA baseball championship series against Chesnee in a third game tie-breaker played at Lexington High School.

McLeod Carmichael’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning turned out to be the winning run in Latta’s 4-3 victory over the Eagles in its sixth straight appearance in the championship series. The Vikings made four straight finals in Class A before playing in the last two Class AA finals. The only championship in that time frame came in 2015.

“It’s very special,” long-time coach Don Cribb said. “We didn’t know until the end of the season what our starting lineup was. Everything was always up in the air. We were mixing and matching and finally got a pretty good combination the last two weeks of the regular season and through the playoffs. I’m really proud of them.”

Latta won despite being out-hit 9-2 but made the most of their opportunities, including getting across the winning run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit.

John Malcolm-George struck out but reached first on a wild pitch, ending the evening for Chesnee starter Nate Lamb. Kody Anderson was hit by a pitch before Hunter Sawyer reached on an error to load the bases. That set the stage for Carmichael. The senior lofted a fly ball to deep enough centerfield to score pinch-runner Chandler Nolan from third.

“Honestly, I was looking for a sacrifice fly,” the senior said. “I saw a pitch middle-in and I tried to upper cut it and got just enough of it.”  

Hunter Sawyer recorded the final four outs to earn the win. The junior relieved Carmichael after the Eagles tied it in a three-run sixth inning.

Sawyer faced a first and third situation and Chesnee tried to get into a rundown between first and second to allow the runner from third to score but Sawyer ran directly at Colin Turner and was able to throw it to the plate for the final out of the inning.

Sawyer then had to gut out the seventh inning. After he got a fly ball to center for the first out, the game had to be halted because he was throwing up on the mound in the muggy, humid conditions. He recovered enough to record a strike out and ground ball to Anderson at second to end the game.

“That’s called gutting it out,” Cribb said.

Latta (24-8) jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first inning. Russ Rogers reached on an error and Pierce Watson walked when Deonte Stanley tripled down the third base line for the early advantage.

The Vikings scratched across a third run in third inning. Rogers reached on an infield single, went to second on an errant throw to first, went to third on a wild pitch then scored on a sacrifice fly from Dylan Brewer.

It stayed that away until Chesnee (18-10) tied it in the sixth inning. Dawson Williamson had an RBI double before Nolan Hammett added a run-scoring single. Joey Foos tied it with an RBI single with two outs and two strikes but that was it after Sawyer got out of the jam.

Latta played error-free baseball and had several above average plays to keep the Chesnee attack at bay.

“They made few plays that they didn’t make in Game 2,” Chesnee coach Scott Wease said. “I definitely think that’s the difference in the game. That’s baseball. Sometimes the other team makes plays and it was there day today.

“If you told me before the game Nate would give up two hits, I would have felt pretty good about our chances. They made their hits count and manufactured a couple run with sacrifice flies.”

Cribb was glad to be hoisting the championship trophy instead of the runner-up one after an evenly played series.

“We’ve been here a few times but haven’t won it as often as we would like,” Cribb said. “We had three games that could have gone either way. It makes it even more special playing against a quality opponent like Chesnee.”


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