Preview: Spring Valley at Wando

Wando Baseball: 2006

By: Jeff Blankenship-Head Coach, April 28, 2006

Season Overview: Entering the 2006 baseball season, the coaching staff at Wando felt like we had a solid core of returning players along with some potential role players moving up from the Junior Varsity. The problem was experience, or lack thereof, as we returned only four starters from the previous year: Nick Sprowls, Brett Thomas, Lonnie Ferguson and Cole Rakar. The addition of Sam Mahoney, a USC signee, instantly boosted the excitement of our program in the off-season. As a first-year coach, it was important to me to establish goals for the program and establish leadership from the top down. We began in August with our weight room kick-off that would later have over one hundred players lifting with the baseball program. We feel like we became a team by spending more time working together in the off-season, especially from Thanksgiving until the Christmas Break. 

An undefeated regular season is not something we had talked about as a team. I did not imagine that anyone would go undefeated in our region as I believed that Region VII was the toughest of the eight AAAA regions. Every team had at least one dominant pitcher and four to five solid hitters. If you noticed last week, Region VII had four teams represented in Lower State District Championships. Strong pitching and defense, as well as timely hitting, helped us clinch the title with three games to play. Rakar and Thomas were solid at short and second while we were able to rotate outfielders Jamie Childers, Jim Johnson, Grayson King, Chris Harbit and Drew Sheridan.  The H.I.T. Tournament provided an opportunity for our pitching staff to develop as starters Clarke Hinson, Brian Cisco and Sheridan all earned victories against out-of-state teams.

District Overview: We began to prepare for Lower State District play the day after our first loss to James Madison from Virginia. We practiced the next day, the Friday of our Spring Break, and came back on Monday refocused on the task at hand. We opened up with Colleton County. This was a team that was going to be very aggressive at the plate and had defeated Hilton Head in their last game of the regular season to earn a berth in the playoffs. Rakar, Thomas and Childers all had multiple hits to lead us to a 9-4 victory. We then faced Richland Northeast. They were a team with a 12-12 record but had the potential to score a lot of runs in a hurry. I knew about Chris Love and Shawn Glover from our own players who play on the same summer teams. Nick Chinners and David Greene also impressed us on a day when rain threatened to stop the game at any time. We ended up winning 11-1 in five innings as the bottom of our line-up went 10-for-15. 

The playoff format rewarded us by giving us a bye as we awaited the winner of the South Florence/Richland Northeast game. We had our pitching lined up to start Rakar (8-1) in Game 1 and Sprowls (8-0) Game 2. After rain on Wednesday, we set out to potentially play a doubleheader knowing how important it was to win Game 1. With the next games on Saturday and Monday, we knew two long outings by our starting pitchers might burn them for our next two games. We had a great opportunity in the fourth inning to blow the game open as Childers doubled into rightfield to drive in a run. Runners were left at second and third with no outs, but Clay Mitchell pitched out of a jam from there to leave the score at 2-0. After we tacked on a run in the fifth to make it 3-0, Love hit a hanging breaking ball that still has not landed over the leftfield fence. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore Jim Johnson drove a 0-1 fastball over Brandon Faust’s head in center field. I looked to Johnson to make sure he was looking for extra bases when he began to trot as the umpire signaled “home run.” I was just as surprised as all of his teammates, who were waiting at the plate and a dysfunctional dog-pile ensued. This was our nine-hole hitter but this homerun is just one of many clutch performances a number of different players have turned in this season.

Lower State Finals Outlook: We received word shortly after that Spring Valley had defeated James Island and would be traveling to Warrior Field on Saturday. A local travel coach told me they are the mirror image of our team and swing the bats well one through nine in their line-up. We are preparing to see Matt Branham, a senior with three quality pitches. Various coaches have informed me about Jeff Johnson, Rob Harding and Timmy Taylor as other impact players. In the spring of 1997, I met the coach of the Vikings, Charlie Wentzky (left), on his recruiting trip to the College of Charleston. He was a workhorse on the mound at CofC and it has been good to see him at different clinics and camps the last couple of years. He has done a tremendous job in his second season at Spring Valley and I hope we are up for the challenge this Saturday.

Spring Valley Baseball: 2006

By: Charlie Wentzky-Head Coach, April 28, 2006

Season Overview: Before the season started we set two goals for ourselves. The first was to win a region championship, which was something that hadn’t been done at Spring Valley since 1987. We accomplished that finishing 10-0 in Region 5. Our second goal was to win twenty games. I thought if we set the bar high, we would end with 15-18 wins. After starting the year 2-2, I didn’t see us making that 20 win mark. We went on to win 12 straight games until we lost at Sumter in early April. At that point we were 14-3 with six games left. We ended up winning our 20th game of the year against our rival Richland Northeast during the Camden Spring Break tournament. We were 20-3 headed into the Districts.

District Overview: It’s always a little scary when you have had a great regular season, when playoff time comes around. You are carrying a ton of expectations, and every opponent is gunning for you. We drew Hartsville in Game 1. They gave us everything we wanted. We fell behind 2-0 in the third inning, but fought back to win 5-2. In game two of the Districts, we played host to James Island. Again we were challenged by another quality opponent. We used a four–run fifth inning to win 5-1. We were now in a position where someone would have to come to our field and beat us twice for the District championship. In the District final we would, again, play James Island. This time would be a little different because they were going to throw Citadel soignée Chris McGuiness. We started this game on Wednesday and played 2 1/3 innings before the rain forced us to suspend play. We stopped with a 1-0 lead, but they had runners at first and third, with oneout. I was now in a predicament that I didn’t really like. We had to decide who we were going to start on the mound when play resumed. We eventually decided to go with Jeff Johnson and we escaped the third allowing only one run. After a Grand Slam by BJ Phillips and two solo shots by Kyle Espie and Dexter Legrand, we won 8-1. Spring Valley was a District Champion again for the first time since Trey Dyson (USC, SVHS Graduate) was a senior. That year was 1998.

Lower State Finals Outlook: For the last few weeks, people from all parts of the state keep mentioning that they want to see us play Wando. Some even said that they thought we would meet for a state title. After explaining we would meet long before then, they would say “Can’t wait for that.”  To me this game has been too far away to worry about, or think about. We both had to win our Districts, which is not an easy task. Now, this game is one day away and it is consuming most of my thoughts. As a coach, I have a little more responsibility on my end because we are the away team. After our game last night I, along with my AD, had to decide on a departure time. As the day goes on today, I will be busy arranging pre-game food, and dealing with other general travel questions. My assistant coach (Collin Liggett) and I will both try and get as much info on Wando as we can so we don’t go into the game without some sort of plan. The scouting reports that we receive are useful to us, but we don’t read too much into them, because you don’t know how the personnel of the team giving you the report matches your personnel. This game will probably be talked about throughout the day by many fans of the game. The key for us in this game is to not get caught up in the atmosphere surrounding the game. We have to understand that we have a big challenge and we need to play well in order to make it a decent game. Wando is a strong team and they will have their best pitcher going for them. My hope is that we can play well. All I can ask is that we give our best effort. If that isn’t enough, then so be it.

The scary part of this game on Saturday is that win or lose, we are both set up for a huge let-down on Monday against either Fort Dorchester or Sumter. We have played Sumter twice this year, and I think that they are the best team we have played this year, but that may change after Saturday’s game. Fort Dorchester has good pitching and has the offense going at the right time. I feel good about where we are in right now. Our pitching has been a strength for us all year and seems to be getting better each time out. We are playing better defensively each time out and are playing well mentally. Offensively, we have been consistent all year, and that is all any coach can ask for. I feel good about where we are physically, I just hope that we can execute mentally. Today we will spend time reviewing situations, and take a good round of BP. We will keep practice fairly short to give the kids a chance to get home and relax. We have a big few days ahead of us.

Am I nervous? I was a little until I spoke to a good friend yesterday, and he told me to relax and enjoy every moment of this. So I will and hopefully the kids will follow.


To read a complete rundown of this game, click here.