CLOVER — The Clover Post 38 Junior American Legion baseball team ran into a strong Aiken team in the best-of-three playoff series last week.
Aiken Post 26, a favorite to win the state Junior Legion championship, defeated Clover 5-0 in a low-scoring game at Aiken in the first game.
Two days later, on July 9, Post 38 hosted Aiken before an enthusiastic crowd at the Clover High School baseball complex, with Post 26 prevailing 13-2.
With the teams battling near even the first three innings, Aiken exploded in the top of the fourth, including two inside-the-park home runs to put the game out of reach.
Post 38 answered in the bottom of the fourth, pushing across two runs. Cole Hybarger opened the inning with an infield hit. He then stole second and third.
After Chase Curtis walked and stole second, Post 38 had runners at second and third.
Hybarger scored on a throw to second that got away.
Later, Justin Adams was hit by a pitch. The next batter, Austin King, hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield, scoring Curtis from third.
Aiken pitcher Luke Nicholas retired Post 38 in order in the bottom of the fifth to seal the win.
Post 38 head coach Garrison Clinton said Aiken is a solid team capable of making a deep run into the playoffs.
“Aiken is a very good baseball team, and there’s no quit in our team,” said Clinton.
“We tried using different pitchers to keep them off balance,” said Clinton. “It worked for a while, but they hit the ball.”
Clinton said he wants the Clover Junior Legion program to someday reach what Aiken has achieved. “It’s the first Junior Legion team they’ve had in 15 years,” he said.
Curtis, who walked and scored a run in Clover’s fourth-inning rally, said he sees the Clover program on the rise.
“We’ve improved as a team since the season began,” said Curtis, a Clover High School rising sophomore. “The coaches want us to be aggressive running the bases,” he said. “Playing legion ball (junior and senior) is good for the Blue Eagle baseball players.”
“We are a young team, with JV and middle-school participants contributing to the program,” Clinton said. “It’s good the kids are playing baseball together in June and July.”
Clinton said the players are working hard to improve and that he feels the future is bright for the program.
“Playing American Legion Junior baseball is a good opportunity for all of our players,” he said.
Post 38 had good participation this season, with a 14-player roster in July when the numbers usually are down due to family vacations.