Bishops meet Red Raiders in playoff opener

  • Monday, April 28, 2014

Bishop England travels to Bamberg on Thursday for its Class AA playoff opener. FRANKIE MANSFIELD

Bishop England head coach Mike Darnell has never worried about classifications.

His teams regularly jump out of Class AA to test themselves against the Lowcountry’s best. The youthful Bishops took their lumps this season, but it was all preparation for May. The real season — playoff season — begins this week.

Bishop England (8-13, 6-2) opens at Bamberg-Ehrhardt on Thursday in the District VI bracket of the 2014 Class AA playoffs.

Bamberg won the Region V No. 2 seed, and right to host the Bishops, off a coin flip with Wade Hampton. Bishop England enters as the Region VI No. 3 seed, suffering its only two region losses by one run in both games.

Bishop England’s region losses to Academic Magnet and Battery Creek were its only losses to schools in Class AA this season. Both losses came late in the final innings. Learning from the regular season and closing out games are two things Darnell says the Bishops must do to be successful in the playoffs.

“We had both of those games and put it on cruise control,” Darnell said. “We haven’t played well at the end of games. Part of that is youth and part of it is developing that killer instinct. But hopefully, having gone through that will make us better come playoffs.”

The Bishops have narrowed their rotation down to a two-man, left-handed sophomore attack with Gunner Finneseth and Edward Bolchoz likely to start on the mound. The underclassmen are among the team leaders in ERA. Bolchoz has a team-high 25 strikeouts this season, and Finneseth has allowed a team-low 26 hits.

Junior right-handers Jackson Riley and Ryan McMannus are expected to handle relief duties. McMannus has stuck out 18 batters in 14 1/3 innings, while Riley is holding teams to a .270 batting average.

“These guys have taken the lion’s share this season and we’re comfortable having them out there in the playoffs,” Darnell said. “All four are starters, but we’re trying to make the two into relief guys we’ll need to count on coming out of the pen.”

The Bishops’ lineup changes game to game, but Darnell always expects production out of Harrison Boals and Jeffery Brown. Boals usually hits in the two or three slot and is batting .340 with 18 RBIs, a team-high four doubles and a .511 slugging percentage. Brown is a sophomore outfielder and designated hitter, batting .394 with 17 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

McMannus has swung the bat well entering the postseason and has 14 RBIs and 15 runs scored this year. Senior catcher Chandler Sambets is another threat at the plate, hitting .364 with 13 RBIs and a .511 on-base percentage.

“It’s simple really, if we can consistently throw strikes and make the routine plays, we’ll be able to stay in games and give ourselves a chance to win,” Darnell said. “If we do those two things, the other things will separate us. Our weight lifting, our conditioning, our practicing will separate us in crunch time.”

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