Socastee at Carolina Forest / West Florence at Conway

By: Austin Alexander-March 14, 2008

Two games separated by six miles, two different start times…sounds like a Diamond Prospects doubleheader!

On Friday night, DP was able to pull into Carolina Forest at 4:15 for batting practice, pre-game infield/outfield and a 6:00 region battle between rivals. Across town, Conway hosted West Florence with the first pitch scheduled for 6:30. High hopes of catching the better part of two match-ups became a little scrambled when walks, errors and plenty of offense bogged down the first contest. But we made due and saw enough to recap for you…

In the opener, the visitors jumped out to an early 3-0 lead when a lead-off walk, sac bunt and an RBI-single to left by David Rickenbacker scored Greg Pearson. Rickenbacker later scored on the backend of a double-steal. Tim Starkey’s run-scoring single pushed the lead to three.

stewartr-stance08.jpgChris Shover’s single in the second pulled the home team within two, Socastee 3-1.

After a wild pitch allowed Socastee to tack on a third inning run, Carolina Forest stormed back in the bottom half when Gavin Torri’s two-run single and Cole Tompkins’ sacrifice fly knotted the score at four.

Travers Woodward put the Braves up in the fourth but the Panthers’ Ryan Stewart (left) answered with a solo homer, 5-5 after four.

The fateful fifth would prove too much to overcome for Carolina Forest. Two infield misplays and a dropped pop up eventually plated two runs.

Though the Panthers staged a late rally and climbed back into the game, they fell to Socastee 9-8 in a conference match-up that could prove critical down the road for both clubs.

Now to the nightcap!

HolmesC-balance.JPGWest Florence’s fate was sealed early on as Conway took a three-run lead into the fifth inning with their ace on the mound. The Tigers would tack on four late insurance runs but this one was in the capable hands on Colby Holmes (right).

Arriving in the fifth, and only viewing nine outs for the visitors, only one ball was put in play against the right-hander, Chandler Smetana’s second hit of the game. They would be the only two hits Holmes would surrender during his 15-strikeout performance.

Prospect Info: Socastee Braves

rickenbackerd-stance08.jpgDavid Rickenbacker-Junior, SS/Catcher: Rickenbacker (left) recently moved to South Carolina from Florida, what a nice surprise that had to be for skipper John Daurity! Rickenbacker has served mostly as the Braves’ catcher but showed plenty of athleticism in the middle on Friday. He showed every action and appearance that he is fully capable of playing shortstop at a high level…and word is that he is even better behind the dish. During batting practice, the kid gobbled up every single groundball he could get to, was turning double plays and never eased up. Rickenbacker hit in the three-hole and centered balls in all three AB’s that I saw. Swing is good, juice is adequate, runs enough. He was awfully good on this night and may just be a sure-fire player for quality programs to run a check on ASAP.

Tim Starkey-Sophomore, Catcher: Also a utility guy, Starkey found his home with the gear on Friday night and proved that Socastee is as deep at the catcher position as any other time I have viewed in 2008. His catch and throw skills are solid and Starkey’s pegs were accurate in this game. I was not completely enamored with his swing in batting practice but Starkey proved me wrong against Carolina Forest pitching by having a big night at the plate out of the two-hole.

Travers Woodward-Sophomore, 3B: Big, strong kid with plenty of pop in his right-handed bat. Woodward’s BP swing was very fluid as he juiced ball after ball; that stroke carried over to live pitching as he was on every pitch he saw on this night. This kid has a potent bat from the clean-up spot in the Brave line-up and projects to be a very good offensive threat. He played third base on Friday but a move to the other corner infield position appears likely in his future.

pearsong-stance08.jpgGreg Pearson-Unsigned senior, INF/RHP: Pearson was the starting pitcher for Socastee and topped out at 73 but he projects much better as a position player. He looks very comfortable in the box and shows tremendous discipline as their lead-off hitter. Pearson (left) has had some success at this level and warrants a look from schools still in search of players.

Notables: Gunnar Kines (Freshman, DH/LHP), Ayres Renfrow (Junior, OF) with a big-time Web Gem in rightfield and his out-stretched diving catch on the foul line!

Prospect Info: Carolina Forest Panthers

Ryan Stewart-Unsigned senior, SS: It makes no sense that this kid is still on the market. Plenty of power in his bat, a stronger arm than in previous viewings, improved hands and the kid runs well. Off to a good start in 2008, the right-handed hitter is playing for a future home and could be an impact in somebody’s line-up next spring.

archerm-throwing08.jpgMatt Archer-Sophomore, Catcher: Good arm and pop times during a pre-game/workout setting. Impressed me immensely with his left-handed swing. To play the position and continue progressing in this game, Archer (left) must get stronger, BUT his swing is fundamentally sound right now. The kid has a feel for the game and appears to take his craft to heart. When it’s all said and done, Archer may end up being one of the better catchers in his class.

Cole Tompkins-Sophomore, 3B: Tompkins’ coaches raved about his offensive start to the season and he proved why. The right-handed hitter is a very aggressive hitter that shows a pull-conscience approach but hits the ball on the button with regularity. Friday became a defensive struggle for him but the kid takes the game very serious and shows plenty of grit in every viewing.

Notables: John Gump (Senior, 1B, Erskine signee), Justin Turbeville (Sophomore, INF), Chris Shover (Junior, RHP/DH), Matthew Jolly (RHP/OF), Josh Knab (Junior, OF) out due to sickness.

Prospect Info: Conway Tigers

HolmesC-finish.JPGColby Holmes-Junior, RHP: Holmes (right) was still shooting bullets in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. I guess you have to see a ton a of high school baseball behind the gun to fully appreciate this but please understand that VERY few arms retain there their  initial velocity over a 100-pitch game, much less get stronger! I hear dad after dad (after dad…) boast about how their sons get stronger as a game rolls along. Years of doing this proves that theory false. Basically what they are stating is that their kid does not prepare in the pen adequately and that his effectiveness improves the more he acquaints himself to game situations. But his kid Holmes is different. His velocity tends to climb with his pitch count and his ability to miss bats does not fall off a bit. On Friday night, in the fifth, Holmes registered a couple of 88’s and mostly 89-90’s. In the final inning, in which he punched out the side, he was 90-91 and never threw a fastball under the 90 MPH mark. And by the way, his breaking ball was a filthy 75-77 hammer. He has several offers from big-time programs on the table, the shock will not come in who else throws in a bid, but if Holmes is not committed a month from now.

Prospect Info: West Florence Knights

SmetanaC-backhand.JPGChandler Smetana-Junior, SS: Bona fide shortstop prospect with a legit bat. Smetana (left) settled into the box on Friday and took his hacks against Holmes, ending in the only two safeties that the Knights would post against him. I was only told of Smetana’s first plate appearance but did arrive in time to see him lace a sharp single to center. Smetana is a quality gloveman with a very projectable swing. Smetana is a definite follow on the showcase circuit this summer.

Landis Lane-Junior, Catcher: Quality catch-and-throw guy whose arm grabs your eye immediately. His quickness out of the shoot and arm strength make him very interesting among junior catchers. His AB’s versus Holmes were uncomfortable but he gets a pass with this difficult right-on-right assignment.