By: Austin Alexander - May 19, 2013
Friday night signaled as a landmark day for two Columbia programs, one state and high school baseball in general. Following a split in the first two contests, Lexington and Blythewood were set to do battle on May 17 in a winner-take-all battle for 4A supremacy... but that was only part of the story!
This recap will not be our standard synopsis of what happened between the white lines. I have done my absolute best to commemorate the moment for those in attendance while trying to paint a picture for anyone that could not be at Carolina Stadium...
-Perfect Storm Collides: Columbia teams, weather, stadium, Game 3-
I took the drive to the Capitol City on Friday afternoon and pulling into the ballpark about 4:30, I saw several groups already tailgating in the parking lot. Our DP Staff of three entered the stadium early on and staked out the best trio of seats in this pristine facility. From there we just walked around, watched some BP, talked to coaches, the usual routine during the pre-game hours. The park was empty at this point... but it was the proverbial 'calm before the storm'. Both teams seemed loose with the biggest game of their lives looming a couple of hours away.
Gates were set to open at 6:00 for the 7:00 tilt, and knowing that, the 'DP 3' posted up right behind the dish, which would be the ideal spot for the game. What we didn't realize is that they were also the perfect seats for what came next!
The entrance in centerfield was the main gate, and from where we were, all we could see was the spacious batter's eye in center. But just prior to 6:00, it was like a herd of cattle when they finally let the awaiting patrons access the awaiting seats. Immediately, people came spewing from each side of the batter's eye, navy blue running across the rightfield concourse, royal blue headed along the leftfield concourse.
Not everyone was sprinting but there was a steady flow of briskly walking people, either to get a great seat or just a seat at all!
Crowd estimates I had heard to this point seemed a bit optimistic to me, but what we saw in the next 30 minutes was a sight to see. As the teams took their rounds of infield/outfield, fans continued to file in with signs, painted bodies and faces, almost everyone donning their school colors. Essentially anyone in neutral colors was like me, simply a fan of high school baseball.
Including myself, our staff has seen our share of baseball games, including quite a few big ones at every level of our great game. Having said that, we remained amazed at what we were witnessing.
While the stadium was comprised of fans from 1 to 91 years of age, regardless of your rooting interest, one thing was for certain, the yard was nearing capacity and these two accomplished clubs were about to play a baseball game in front of an unprecedented 6,240 paying customers!
At first pitch, nearly every chair in the joint had a body in it, people lined the railing along the main concourse, the burm in rightfield was loosely full, even the bleachers in deep left had a few folks watching from there.
There are plenty of outlets where you can read about what transpired over the next seven innings, including Diamond Prospects, as Lexington won the baseball game 4-0, capturing the state championship and capping off a banner 2013 season.
When those in attendance and on the field look back years from now, they will probably remember which teams played and who won. However, the conversation will not end there... it may not even start there when the storytelling begins! Somewhere in the recesses of minds will be brought up the night that prep baseball packed out one of the nation's finest facilities during an epic night for our sport in the state of South Carolina!
DP Bonus: We congratulate both coaching staff's and both rosters for being the reason to generate such a memorable evening/week for many. As an aside, the three game series eclipsed an estimated 10,000 in attendance. When we all pulled into the stadium that Friday, we knew one team would win, one team would not. On a night when Lexington took home the prized trophy, perhaps the biggest winner on this night was the game of baseball and those of us who were there! But don't take our word for it, see for yourself. It was a terrific celebration that can be viewed for free in a very well-done SCHSL telecast. To view, click here.