In the all-important playoff opener, Beaufort High coach Keith Riley turned to Wes Graves to shut down a dangerous lineup. On a Saturday afternoon at North Augusta, his pitcher delivered.
Graves put together a clutch six-inning performance on the mound, and the Eagles edged the Yellowjackets 2-1 on the road in the opening round of the SCHSL Class 4A District 4 tournament before falling 9-2 to visiting May River on Monday. Beaufort was set to host an elimination game Wednesday night against South Florence with the winner advancing to take on the Sharks in Friday’s district championship.
Graves came up huge to start the postseason run, allowing just one run on five hits with some clutch high-leverage pitching to pick up a well-earned win. Chase McKelvey did the rest, throwing a perfect seventh to finish off the victory and advance his Eagles in the winners bracket. William Winburn was 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI, and Colin Peterson knocked in the game winning run from the seven-spot in the lineup.
But the Eagles ran into trouble against a red-hot May River team that has won 12 straight to reach the district championship game. Riley Stokes threw six strong innings to outduel Ollie Holmes in a matchup of tough senior left-handers, and the Sharks manufactured a couple of big rallies to extend their winning streak and advance in the championship bracket.
The Sharks broke up a scoreless tie with a four-run third inning, and they did it in unconventional fashion. James Layman drew a leadoff walk, and the Eagles failed to record an out on consecutive bunts from Darin Horn and Zack Morillo to load the bases with no outs. Caleb Allinder and Walker Taylor each brought home runs with grounders to the right side, and Luke Holland, Danny Farrell, and Stokes each came up with two-out hits to push across two more.
The Eagles answered with a two-out rally of their own in the bottom half, bringing the robust home crowd back into the game with an RBI single from Rhogue Wallace and a run-scoring double down the left-field line from Holmes before Stokes got out of the jam with a strikeout.
The wheels came off for Beaufort when it had to go to the bullpen in the sixth, as back-to-back walks followed by consecutive hit-by-pitches forced home a run before Patrick Daley came on to get out of the mess without any further damage.
The Sharks played some more small ball in the seventh, when Farrell worked a leadoff walk and Stokes laid down a bunt and reached on a wild throw to second, putting runners on the corners. Cole Boyles brought in a run with a hard grounder to short and Layman deposited an RBI double into left-center before Morillo added the punctuation with a laser beam over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.
Stokes struck out five and walked four over six frames, allowing two runs and four hits, and Bennett Roemer finished it off, working around back-to-back walks to pitch a scoreless seventh. Holland was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run, and Morillo finished 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs on his shot to left in the seventh. Rush Riley was 2-for-4 and scored a run to lead the Eagles at the plate.
Holmes went five innings, allowing four runs — one earned — on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
The Sharks (16-6) are the only remaining undefeated team in the double-elimination bracket and will host the district championship Friday. They’ll await the winner of an elimination game between Beaufort (13-9) and South Florence, who meet Wednesday at Beaufort High.
Above: Beaufort High’s Ollie Holmes delivers a pitch in the third inning of the Eagles’ 9-2 loss to May River on Monday in the Class 4A district playoffs. Photo by Justin Jarrett.