Bobcats drop opener against Bishop England
By Eric Sprott
CHARLESTON — There’s not much separating the Seneca and Bishop England high school baseball teams, and that was evident in the opening game of their Class 3A state championship series on Saturday afternoon.
But, unfortunately for the Bobcats, the breaks went Bishop England’s way to open the best-of-three series, making for a long drive back to Oconee County from the coast.
The Battling Bishops brought around a pair of runs in the third inning, then staved off a late Seneca push for a 2-1 victory, putting them one game away from winning the state crown for a second consecutive year.
The Bobcats (19-7) got on the board in the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Matthew Burgess, but they couldn’t engineer enough offense against Bishop England (30-2) to steal a road win in the series opener.
“They’re a very good team, and they’ve won a lot of games for a reason,” Seneca coach Andy Bay said. “They pitched their way out of a couple of jams that we tried to put them in.
“That’s what it should be — just one or two plays our way, and it’d be a different story. That’s what you’ll have when you get to this point.”
With one out in the third inning, the Battling Bishops put runners on second and third, and Matthew Lobeck opened the scoring with a run-scoring single off the glove of Seneca starter Bryson Whaley, who scattered seven hits in six innings of work.
Two batters later, Geoffrey Gilbert — a Clemson commitment — belted a hard-hit single into center field with two outs, upping the Bishop England lead to 2-0.
After Whaley forced a groundout to end the inning with runners on the corners, Seneca loaded the bases in the top of the fourth with two outs but grounded out to second base to end their shot at responding.
“It’s just one thing here or there that’s the difference, and that’s what it’s supposed to be at this point,” Bishop England coach Mike Darnell said. “Today, we had a good inning, and that’s all it took.”
And, as seen in the fourth, the big hits didn’t come for Seneca on Saturday — something Bay is confident will change when the series shifts to Seneca’s Coach Mac Field on Tuesday at 6 p.m. with his team’s season on the line.
“The balls we did hard today, this Charleston wind just seems to kill them,” said Bay, whose team fell 1-0 at Bishop England in the teams’ state championship series a season ago. “The effort’s been there with this group over the years, and I don’t ever question that. They came to play and were loose and relaxed on the way over here, and they had the business-like mentality we expect.
“But, I don’t know what it is about this place, because we just can’t seem to find that big hit this year or last year.”
On Tuesday, Seneca will start Ryan Moore on the mound against Gilbert for the Battling Bishops. The Bobcats changed their usually aggressive approach at the plate against Gilbert last season, with poor results.
That won’t be the case on Tuesday said Seneca catcher Petey Ridley, who hit a leadoff single in the sixth, which Trent Land followed with another single to set up Burgess’ sac fly.
“Weren’t not going to be patient with him this year,” Ridley said of Gilbert. “If he throws it in there, we’re going to be ready to hit it. He did well against us last year, but we just have to attack his fastball more and hit it right back at him.
“I think we’ll be back Tuesday and just give them our best shot.”
Bishop England 2, Seneca 1
SHS 000 001 0 — 1 7 1
BE 002 000 x — 2 7 0
WP — Sanders, 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
LP — Whaley, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K
SHS — Ridley, 2-3; Land, 2-3; Burgess, 1-2, RBI
BE — Lobeck, 2-3, RBI; Sanders, 2-3; Gilbert, 2-3, RBI
Note: The Journal will have more coverage of the Bobcats’ series against Bishop England in Tuesday’s edition, along with a full report from the Seneca boys’ track and field team’s Class 3A state championship, which it clinched Saturday afternoon in the Midlands.
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