Bobcats begin state title series at Bishop England
By Eric Sprott
NORTH CHARLESTON — Nearly a year has passed, and Ben Seitz remembers the final out of last season’s state championship series all too well.
It goes without saying the rest of his teammates on the Seneca High School baseball team do, too, as the memories of last year’s shortfall against Bishop England still cut deep.
In the winner-take-all third game of the series at Lexington County Stadium, the Bobcats were six outs away from their first state crown in 30 years with a 2-1 advantage in the sixth inning. But the Battling Bishops responded, hitting back-to-back doubles and a single on the way to posting a three-spot in the frame.
Seneca failed to produce a rebuttal, and a harmless popup to the catcher marked the final out in a 4-2 Bishop England victory, as the Battling Bishops won back-to-back games to rally for their eighth championship in school history.
“Hearing the roar of their fans and their team all huddling up and dog-piling behind home plate, it was a tough feeling knowing that could have been us,” Seitz, the Bobcats’ starting second baseman said Thursday.
“It was kind of a shock, because I know we felt like we all had it, and we kind of just let it slip out of our hands,” Seneca pitcher Bryson Whaley added. “Some things just really didn’t go our way.”
But, as fate would have it, the Bobcats have played themselves in position to earn their redemption, as they’ll be looking to take care of some unfinished business beginning today when they again open play in the Class 3A state championship series against Bishop England.
The Bobcats (19-6) and Battling Bishops (29-2) will open the series this afternoon at 2 p.m. on Daniel Island in Charleston before the series shifts to Seneca on Tuesday. A third game, if necessary, would be played next Saturday, with the time and location of that game to be determined.
After Seneca clinched the Class 3A Upper State championship on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win over Indian Land at Coach Mac Field, the Bobcats were unsure of their opponent in the state championship series. At the time, Bishop England had just dropped only its second game of the season to Gilbert, forcing a decisive second game for the Lower State championship.
Suffice to say, the Bobcats weren’t exactly upset to learn the Battling Bishops fought back to win the second game, as they’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to have a championship rematch.
“We were all just kind of hoping we’d get another shot at them,” said Whaley, who will start on the mound today against Greg Sanders for Bishop England. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to last year. A few things just didn’t go our way, and all offseason, all that hard work we’ve put in together has been to get back to this moment and play the same team. It gives us a little bit extra motivation for sure.”
“I just wanted to make it to state first, but another shot at them is pretty nice,” Seneca first baseman Riley Fletcher added.
Like Seneca, the Battling Bishops return most of last season’s team, with head coach Mike Darnell saying the only starter his squad lost was pitcher Shawn Runey.
Pitcher Geoffrey Gilbert, a Clemson commit, leads the way for Bishop England this season, and Darnell said he’s not at all surprised to again face off against Seneca with the state crown on the line.
“It was a good series last year,” he said Friday. “I expect that again, and that’s what it should be in a state championship series. We’re looking forward to it, because good baseball is always fun.”
And for all the success enjoyed by the Battling Bishops, Seneca isn’t sweating the matchup against a team with two losses on the season, as the Bobcats are plenty confident in themselves heading into this afternoon.
“I think us being as hot as we are right now, I think it honestly doesn’t matter,” Seneca left fielder Walker Lathrop said of the Bishops’ success. “We’re going to go out there and play our best game, and I think if we keep playing like we’ve been playing, we’ll be fine.”
“We know they’re a great ballclub, and we see all the time about Bishop England,” Seitz added. “I think it’s great we get to go back down there and get our shot at them, because I really want to show we’re the best ballclub in South Carolina.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Seneca head coach Andy Bay, who’s confident last year’s experience in the state championship series will pay dividends this time around.
“We’re familiar with them, and there won’t be any surprises,” he said. “We know each other’s pitching … and I think with the experience of being there already, I feel positive they’re going to show up relaxed, enjoy it, have a good time and go win it.
“We felt like we left some opportunities on the field last year with them, and the way we’re playing now, we feel like we can compete, and it should be fun.”
2018 Class 3A State Championship Series Schedule
Best of three; x — if necessary
Today: Seneca at Bishop England, 2 p.m.
Tuesday: Bishop England at Seneca, TBA
x-May 19: Seneca vs. Bishop England, neutral site, TBA
2017 Class 3A State Championship Series Recap
Game 1: Seneca 2, Bishop England 0 (at Seneca)
Game 2: Bishop England 1, Seneca 0 (at Bishop England)
Game 3: Bishop England 4, Seneca 2 (in Lexington)
State Championship Appearance History
State champion — 1987
State runner-up — 1978, 2017
State champion — 1997, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2017
State runner-up — 1996, 2013
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