Monday, April 28, 2014
Veteran talent and consistency are usually key ingredients to a deep playoff push.
Wando baseball has plenty of the former. As the Class AAAA playoffs begin this week, Warriors head coach Dirk Thomas is hoping his team can grab hold of the latter.
Wando (14-8) opens in the playoffs at Region VIII champion Ashley Ridge on Thursday in the District VIII bracket.
Wando nearly won the Hanahan Invitational Tournament sandwiched between two region losses. Each of the Warriors’ first three region losses were by one run and lost in the final inning. Every team Wando lost to in Region VII, they also defeated, including an 11-run pummeling of Goose Creek after dropping two to the Gators a week earlier.
“We’ve just been inconsistent,” Thomas said. “Especially with guys in scoring position or when we have an advantage. We’ve shown what we’re capable of at times, but we’ve also let teams hang around and it’s hurt us. We can’t do that anymore.”
Wando’s pitching and defense is enough to keep them in most games. Right-handers Jeff Gottesman and Mark Evans lead a talented rotation of arms. Evans has a 0.45 ERA, allowing just two earned runs in 31 innings pitched. He’s struck out 30 against 23 hits and 10 walks. Gottesman leads Wando with 40 strikeouts, has a 0.57 ERA and has allowed three runs in 36 2/3 innings.
Tyler Kimbrell, Harrison Smith, Owen Ravenel and Andrew Lee all have an ERA of 3.00 or lower with at least 12 2/3 innings pitched.
“We have a lot of confidence that our pitching can be four or five deep,” Thomas said. “That’s really important for us. We need to be three deep for the playoffs. Our pitching will give us a chance in every game. It comes down to our offense.”
Wando’s 12 runs scored in the regular season finale against Goose Creek are the second most the Warriors have tallied this season. Nine batters recorded at least one hit. Now, Thomas is hoping the momentum throughout his lineup carries over into the postseason.
Oliver Hill leads the team with 32 hits toward the top of the lineup, hitting .416 with 15 RBIs, 16 runs and a .986 OPS. A few slots back, Noah LoCascio has powered a team-high five home runs, 22 RBIs and six doubles. Tyler Ackard and Payton Muller are both hitting over .300 and Kep Brown is a dangerous threat in the middle with 16 runs scored, 14 RBIs, eight doubles and three home runs.
Wando enters this season’s playoffs in familiar territory as the No. 3 seed out of Region VII.
The Warriors were in the same No. 3 position last season and went on to win three playoff games and push Beaufort in extra innings in the district championship game. Wando defeated Ashley Ridge in a preseason scrimmage at home this season.
“We understand it’s a whole new season now,” Thomas said. “Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed anymore. A lot of these guys were here last year and know what it takes. When we play up to our potential, there isn’t anybody in the playoffs we can’t beat. And our guys believe that.”