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Robert E. Lee Defeats Colleton Prep 5-2 To Win SCISA AA Baseball Crown, Austin Windham Named HSSR-SCISA Mr. Baseball For 2019 Season

Robert E. Lee Defeats Colleton Prep 5-2 To Win SCISA AA Baseball Crown, Austin Windham Named HSSR-SCISA Mr. Baseball For 2019 Season

By Billy G. Baker


Orangeburg---When his moment came in the third and deciding best of three SCISA AA baseball finale, Robert E. Lee’s Austin Windham went to the mound and pounded the strike zone in the same spirit of former Braves pitcher Gregg Maddox, and this talented right hander ended up striking out 15 Colleton Prep batters, helping the Cavaliers win a state title with a hard fought 5-2 win Thursday night at Orangeburg Prep.

It was the Cavaliers second state title under head coach David Rankin, since they last won the gold medal round in 2014. This was the 5th time in six seasons the team had played in the finals.  Robert E. Lee head won game one at home on Monday 15-0 in three innings and on Tuesday Colleton Prep came back with a 1-0 win to force a game three neutral site.

“As a senior it feels really special to go out a champion and I just wish we could have won it the past two seasons as well,” said Windham after the big win. “I mainly throw curve balls and sliders and I try to put a lot of movement on my pitches.  I am headed to Florence-Darlington Tech for at least one season with the goal of transferring to a bigger school at some point.

“I was ready to have the ball in my hand tonight and I felt relaxed and ready to go,” said Windham. “Our goal all season was to win a championship and it feels special that it happened.”

Windham has been named the 2019 HSSR-SCISA Mr. Baseball honoree as the top senior baseball player in SCISA for this season. On the season he had a 0.44 ERA, finished 9-0, and had 68 strike-outs. He will play with the Post One Legion team in Florence this summer after not being on a travel ball team last summer. The Florence-Darlington signee is expected to be a much sought-after prospect after spending one season in that program.

“He’s has great command of four pitches; a curve ball. slider, fast ball and change-up,” said head coach David Rankin. “He is very deserving of this award and he has a great future in the game of baseball and he is a very self-motivated and hard-working player.”    

Coach Rankin, the HSSR- SCISA Statewide Coach of the Year, is a thirty-year coaching veteran who was unusually calm after the game. “You are always happy for the players when they win a championship and our pitching came through really well all season, but they really stepped it up in the playoffs,” said Coach David Rankin. “In seven games in the playoffs we gave up something like seven runs total. To do that it takes a complete team effort. This team has worked as hard as any I have coached.”

Coach Rankin said over the years he has played for 9 or 10 state titles but won only two, so he knows first-hand just how special winning the second one truly is.  “We graduate five seniors, and four of them were starters, so we have some work to do for next season, but we expect to be a contender,” said Coach Rankin. “Playing a tough schedule against bigger schools really prepared us well for the playoffs and the last two close games we have had with Colleton Prep.  Winning a state title was a day one goal so now that it has happened I am happy and excited for our players, assistant coaches and our very supportive fans.”

Windham came out on fire striking out the first 9 Colleton Prep batters he faced as his breaking ball broke “nine ways from Sunday” and kept batters guessing just which way it would break and move at the last moment as it crossed the plate. He appeared laser focused as he stared down batters working quickly in-between pitches.

The Cavaliers pushed across their first run in the top of third as Jenkins McCullum walked and stole second. He scored on Hunter McGee’s single to right field.

In the bottom of the 4th the Warhawks tied the score at one each. Connor Morris led off with a Texas League single over the shortstop and then catcher Pete Peters reached on a mental error as he bunted, and no one covered the bag for the Cav’s. Jordan Crosby then reached on a fielder’s choice after the lead runner going to third, on Crosby’s ground ball, slid under the tag to load the bases.  Morris scored on a swinging bunt that Dawson Sweat beat out for a single and an RBI that tied the score.

In the 5th inning REL made it 2-1 as Dustin Kennedy reached on an error and moved to second on a sac bunt by McCullum. Hunter McGee then singled in Kennedy to earn an RBI.  Then in the 6th inning the Cavaliers added two runs sending seven batters to the plate. Josh Burns led off with a single and moved to second on a passed ball. Dylan Dubose then walked followed by a walk to Jet Smith that loaded the bases. Two batters later Kennedy drew a bases loaded walk that scored Burns making it 3-1.  At this point in the game starting pitcher Brad Strickland has reached 107 pitchers and he was replaced on the mound by crafty lefty Jesse Murdaugh.

Dubose’s courtesy runner Jacob Baker scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.

In the bottom of the 6th Colleton Prep got a lead-off triple in the right field power alley by speedy Connor Morris. Two batters later Morris scored on a deep sac fly by Jordan Crosby.

In the 7th inning REL added an insurance run by pinch runner Josh Kirven who scored on a wild pitch running for Windham who had reached on a fielder choice.

For the game REL had seven hits led by McGee who went four-for-four with two RBI’s. Burns had two hits and one RBI. Smith got the other RBI. Windham whiffed 15 batters giving up four hits and no walks.

Colleton Prep was led at the plate by Morris with two hits, Peters had a hit, and Dawson Sweat had a hit. Strickland worked 5.2 innings on the hill allowing five this with 9 K’s. Murdaugh worked 1.1 innings striking out one and allowing two hits.    

“I can’t say enough good things about our kids and they battled it out tough even in elimination games,” said Colleton prep head coach Cody Mincey.  “Brad Strickland came out tonight and pitched well and gave us a chance to win. We had a few passed balls on his fast balls by our catcher and a dropped ball in the outfield hurt us, but we had our chances to win the game tonight and I am proud of the effort we gave in this game and all season.

“I promise you we will be back in the finals next year with a different outcome,” said Coach Mincey a three- time HSSR all-state player from Hartsville who went on to play for Ray Tanner at South Carolina. “We have a lot of returning players back and we will work hard to get even better,” said Coach Mincey. “We still feel like our player suspension for game one of the series was not the right call, even after we provided video evidence, and we are proud of Jordan Crosby coming back and pitching a great game in our 1-0 win in game two. “

One of those players coming back for Colleton Prep is sophomore pitcher/utility player Kyle Hooker, who can touch 90 on his fastball with masterful control. While being able to bat and play in the outfield over the past month of the 2019 season Hooker was affected by an unexplainable and hard to cure “Yits” issue that shut him down on the mound over the past month and throughout the playoffs.

Kyle Hooker is a big- time baseball prospect and we will get whatever issue he has been dealing with taken care of and he will be one of the top junior players in the state of South Carolina next year,” said Coach Mincey. “Just wait and see. Is it going to be his year next season. If he had been able to pitch this series things could have turned out differently.”


© 2017 High School Sports Report

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