By Wes Kerr
USC Beaufort baseball couldn’t find the offense in its 2022 season-opening series on Friday and Saturday, dropping three of four games to Milligan (Tenn.) at Richard Gray Stadium in Hardeeville. The Buffaloes took both of Friday’s games in a pair of 3-2 and 2-1 victories, and USCB won Saturday’s first contest 5-4 in walk-off fashion before dropping the finale 4-1.
The Sand Sharks bats showed some strong signs in the opening inning of game one, as star senior outfielder Leandy Castro cranked a triple into the right-field gap to score Brian Meyer before Brock Thibodeaux walked in a run to grab a 2-1 lead. But the Sand Sharks could only find three hits the rest of the way as Milligan tied the game with a fifth-inning Anthony Guzman double before Braden Spano put the Buffaloes ahead for good with a solo homer in the sixth to notch a 3-2 win.
USCB starter Brandon Blume impressed in his Sand Sharks debut, striking out five batters over 4 2/3 innings and issuing no walks.
Milligan struck quickly again in Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader, scoring a pair of runs in the first on a wild pitch and a Spano RBI-double. USCB struggled again to find the clutch hits, leaving a runner in scoring position in the second and third innings. The Sand Sharks got on the board in the fifth after Milligan pulled starter Andrei Beal, as infielder Wesley Ambrose ripped a double to left field to plate Nick Milhan and cut the lead to 2-1. The home team had a prime opportunity to steal a win in the seventh and final inning with runners on second and third, but Brock Browning struck out Sellars to give Milligan its second straight victory.
Scott Matthews put up a solid outing in his first appearance since the 2020 season, allowing just one earned run and three hits through four innings of work with two strikeouts and a walk.
USCB struck first in the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader with the Buffaloes, as Meyer tallied a sacrifice fly in the third inning to take a 1-0 lead. But Chancery Hall responded in the top of the fourth for Milligan, launching a three-run homer just right of the foul pole for a 3-1 lead. Coming in off the bench to right field, Castro made an instant impact for the Sand Sharks on both sides, lining a game-tying RBI-single to cap off a two-run fifth inning before gunning down Hall at the plate in the sixth to keep it knotted at 3.
Justin Greene gave the Buffaloes a 4-3 advantage in the top of the seventh with an RBI-single to right, but the Sand Sharks quickly mounted a rally in the bottom half with an Ambrose single and a Meyer walk. An aggressive call for a double steal paid off with runners advancing to second and third base with no outs, and Sellars cashed in with a sacrifice fly while moving Meyer to third before the junior scored on a wild pitch to give the Sand Sharks their first win of the season.
Reliever Tucker Perry earned the win on the mound, holding the Buffaloes to one run in the seventh on two hits while adding a strikeout. Freshman Brandon Martin was key to keeping the Sand Sharks in it, pitching 2 1/3 hitless innings with three strikeouts and one walk.
Milligan took the upper hand in the weekend’s final game with a three-run fourth, as Andrew Mathias and Cade Davis picked up RBI-hits to grab a 3-0 advantage. USCB let a key opportunity slip away after stranding two runners on base in the fourth inning, and Milligan tacked on another run in the sixth to go up 4-0. The Sand Sharks got on the scoreboard in the bottom half with a two-out, RBI-double from Kyran Russ, but couldn’t get any closer as Brandon Marello finished off a complete-game win on the mound.
Cam Mathis allowed just one hit and one earned run in two innings for USCB, and Michael Corrales threw a hitless seventh inning while adding a strikeout.
Alexander Humphrey paced the Sand Sharks offense over the opening weekend series, going 3-for-8 and scoring a run. Meyer was tremendous at the plate and on the basepaths, finishing 4-for-11 with a double and three walks while going a perfect 7-for-7 on stolen-base attempts.
USCB (1-3) hits the road for the first time on Tuesday at Augusta (Ga.).