CLOVER — The Clover Post 38 Senior American Legion baseball team wrapped up a competitive season by extending highly-regarded Greenville Post 3 in back-to-back playoff games.
After absorbing a 11-0 pounding to Greenville in the opening round of the best-of-five series, the Post 38 players raised their level of play the next two games, culminating with Friday’s 4-3 loss at Greenville.
Head coach Hank Wofford praised the players in postgame remarks.
“Justin Rayano pitched a great game, going seven and two-thirds innings,” said Wofford.
“Davis McCarter was two-for-four at the plate and drove in all three runs,” he said.
“I am very proud of our players,” said Wofford. “They fought back after losing the first playoff game and played with pride. We played toe-toe with a very good team.”
Wofford said the Greenville head coach said after the game that the Post 3 players hadn’t been in many close games this season.
“Their coach said our team pushed his team two games in a row and felt our team’s strong showing would help Post 3 in the next round of the playoffs,” Wofford said.
Greenville had the advantage for much of the game played in Clover, using solid pitching and timely hitting to build an 8-0 lead through seven and a half innings.
Trailing 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Clover’s Landon Harkey got things started with a lead-off single. Chase Galant and Rayano drew walks, loading the bases with no outs.
Corey Paraham stepped to the plate with one out and belted a long home run to left field to clear the bases.
“The pitch was a fastball when I hit the grand slam,” Paraham said. “It was big at the time and helped get us back into the game.”
Greenville’s lead had been cut in half and momentum had shifted to the Clover dugout.
After Cody Payne doubled and stole third, Chase Goldberg drew a walk, leaving runners at first and third.
Barrett Courtwright’s RBI single and Harkey’s RBI double sliced the Greenville lead to a pair of runs.
Galant followed with a clutch run-scoring single, reducing Post 3’s lead to a lone run at 8-7.
Post 38 carried its late-game heroics to the bottom of the eighth: After the first two Clover batters were retired, Cole Hybarger beat out an infield hit.
Goldberg ripped a double into the gap, scoring Hybarger and knotting the score at eight. Courtwright followed with an RBI single, staking Clover to a 9-8 lead.
The Greenville team tied the game in the top of the ninth without getting the ball out of the infield, with an infield single, bunt single and a balk producing the run.
Later, with two runners aboard, three singles in succession expanded Post 3’s lead to 13-9.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Rayano singled and the Clover team still had hope.
Rayano advanced to second and third on wild pitches, but Post 38 was unable to keep the rally going and Greenville survived Clover’s challenge.
“Our kids fought back from 8-0 to take the lead,” Wofford said after the game. “We showed that we can hit with Greenville and had a chance to win.”
Wofford said the Senior and Junior American Legion experience affected Clover High School baseball players in a positive way for the 2015 season.
“We have a unique situation,” said Wofford, who will be the head coach of the Blue Eagles varsity baseball team next season. “All of our players are from Clover. They are playing together in the summer and learning to jell.”
“Keeping the players together to play American Legion baseball will benefit the kids when they compete at the high school level,” he said.