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McBee celebrates Class A state baseball title


McBee – For the third time in four years, and second straight, the McBee Panthers proved to be the best Class A baseball team in the state.

The Panthers finished 24-4 in recording a two-game sweep of Green Sea Floyds in the Class A best-of-three championship series. McBee won game one, 2-0, and won the clincher, 7-3. The 2019 trophy will join trophies from 2016 and 2018.

McBee began the season as the top-ranked team in Class A, which comes with some pressure. But the Panthers had eight returning starters from last year’s championship team and coach Chris Lloyd says experience helped his team deal with preseason expectations.

“This was a very mature team and they never really let that stuff bother them,” said Lloyd, the Class A Coach of the Year by the High School Sports Report. “It’s a special bunch of kids that embraced the expectations. They just showed up every day, practice or game, and put out the best effort they could put out. We knew we had a chance to get back and win it but we pushed them hard every day. They responded to it well. They loved it. It’s tough the be the favorite but it’s also fun and exciting.”

In the championship clincher, the Panthers struck for three runs in the top of the second to claim an early 4-0 lead. When the Trojans answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, McBee answered with two runs of their own in the third for a 6-2 lead. Each team added a run late in the contest but staked with a four-run lead, McBee ace Connor Kirkley was more than good enough.

Kirkley, the Class A player of the year by the S.C. Baseball Coaches Association and the High School Sports Report, finishes his senior year with a 7-0 record and a 0.27 earned run average. The Coastal Carolina signee struck out 58 hitters in 33 1/3 innings of work.

At the plate, Kirkley hit .390 with four home runs and 21 RBI.

Clark Kirkley went 7-1 on the mound and earned all-state honors, as did Jamie Tamburrino, who hit .350 and had more than 20 RBI.

McIver Wallace hit over .300 and belted a home run in game one of the championship series. Nick Boyle was another key offensive contributor during the season.

“Every kid did their job, did what was asked of them,” Lloyd said. “It’s a very unselfish group. As coach, you don’t get a group like this very often. I just loved watching them go out and play.”

The season started on a rocky note as the Panthers lost three of their first four games in a preseason tournament. All three losses came to AAAAA schools – Byrnes, Nation Ford and Stratford.

After the tournament, McBee went on a 15-game winning streak before a loss during the Mingo Bay Classic spring break tournament. After the break, the Panthers went 8-0.

“We wanted to challenge these guys early but we also wanted our guys to know they could play with anyone,” Lloyd said. “We lost to Nation Ford 1-0. We lost to Byrnes 6-3 but had a 3-1 lead. We could compete with any team and we wanted our guys to see that. It wasn’t about whether we won every game or lost every game. It was about competing and improving.”

Lloyd, who was a part of one state title while an assistant at Chesterfield, says there is no magic formula to winning championships. Players, he says, can be the difference if they work hard and remain humble as a team.

“You have to have good player to win championships, you just have to,” Lloyd said. “You have to have guys that will buy in, all of them together. Here at McBee, we had some really good players and every kid bought in. We’re gonna miss these nine seniors. We have to sort of start over next year but that’s fine. I am already looking forward to next year. It’s time for the new bunch to create their own legacy. The ones leaving certainly created a great legacy to follow.”

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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