“Deepest Team Ever” leading Swampcats Baseball to SCISA playoffs
By Jeff Staser
Manning – Coach Barry Hatfield has been coaching high school baseball a long time, across many levels, but never has he felt the blessing of a team as deep as the one he currently fields at Laurence Manning Academy.
“This is a real deep team,” Hatfield expounded. “I have 16 players on my roster and all of them are baseball players. I don’t lose much when I move them around. We’re eight to nine pitchers deep as well and that puts a lot of pressure on the other teams.”
The Swampcats enter their final game before Spring Break with a 14-2 mark and an undefeated 5-0 regional record after a 14-1 victory over Orangeburg Prep.
Two game splits against Pinewood Prep and Ben Lippen remain the only blemish on their record. An April 21 showdown against region rival Wilson Hall looks to decide the region title.
“We had two great series against Pinewood Prep and Ben Lippen,” Hatfield said. “We didn’t play real well early on in the season. I pulled the team together and showed them photos of last year’s state championship team. I told them although the players were mostly the same, the team wasn’t. They needed to get it together.”
The team responded. The Swampcats did lose 3A side-arming Player of the Year in Taylor Finley and catcher Trent Mason. The filled both spots with junior Bobby Crisp who leads the team with five saves and starts at catcher.
“He came to us from Kentucky,” Hatfield said, “and as I soon as I watched him throw from behind the plate I told him he was our starter back there.”
Senior first baseman Buddy Bleasedale leads the team at the plate with a .438 clip as well as RBI with 21. He is one of eight pitchers with victories. Junior Brent Jordan is close behind after just having a 17 at-bat steak of reaching base snapped against Orangeburg Prep. Jordan is hitting .421 with 16 RBI.
“He popped out in the game,” Hatfield joked, “and I asked him what was wrong with him.”
Sophomore third baseman Trent Frye is the only Swampcat with more than one long ball hitting at a .326 clip, but it is the speed and depth that keeps opponents on edge. In a recent contest against Manning High School the Swampcats had seven steals through the first five frames.
“We try to keep the pressure on the other team,” Hatfield said. “I guess it’s our version of a fast break. We’re going to bunt, hit and run, and try to take the extra base.”
The Swampcats are lead on the mound by Jake Jordan and Braydon Osteen, while Dalton Page and Taylor Lee have both chipped in a pair of wins.
Four-run first against Florence Christian Lifts Lady Swampcats to 12-4 record At Spring Break
By Jeff Staser
Manning – With the bulk of the region season still before them, the Lady Swampcats of Laurence Manning enters the annual Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach with a 12-4-1 record thanks to a four-run first inning in their most recent win.
The Laurence Manning girls head off to the Spring Break tournament in North Myrtle Beach 1-0 in the region with a 12-5 win over Florence Christian.
“We grow together in this tournament every year,” said head coach Maria Rowland. “It’s a time to get to know each other and build team comradery. We’ve had tournaments where we haven’t won a game and came back to finish strong, and have had good tournament where we’ve come back and struggled. It’s more about coming together as a team.”
The Lady Swampcats go into the tournament off a 4-1 victory over Marlboro Academy where they displayed all of their fireworks in the first inning. Senior center fielder Bailey Elms got the inning started with a single, followed by a walk by junior second baseman Abbie Beard. Senior shortstop Brooke Ward was able to sacrifice the runners over to allow sophomore Trinity Harrington to spot the Lady Swampcats with a 1-0 lead off a one-run single.
After the senior center fielder knocked in the second run with a RBI single, senior third baseman Ashton Rogers drove home two with a critical double. The Lady Swampcats cruised the rest of the way behind four innings from junior Lundee Olsen and the close by sophomore Liz Hussey.
Coach Rowland is still looking to get the entire team together at one time after going through a string of illnesses where they endured eight players missing time with the flue.
“I guess the silver lining is that it happened now and not at the end of the season,” Rowland said. “We’re not where we need to be right now, but we’re finally getting everyone on the field where we want them to start. The team is beginning to believe in themselves, and a lot of this game is about confidence.”