The Berkeley baseball team trailed James Island, 3-1, in the bottom of the sixth inning Monday night, but Stags coach Landy Cox wasn't about to push the panic button. He wasn't even worried.
Berkeley won a district championship in last May's postseason thanks to a team that grew up and matured quickly. A year older, the players have talent and confidence.
So with the game on the line, the Stags prevailed in the Region 7-AAA opener against the Trojans. They scored three runs in the sixth with the help of Dylan Baker's two-run single for a 4-3 victory. Zach Gonzales came in and pitched a scoreless seventh to get the save.
“These kids know they can win,” Cox said. “They don't think anyone can beat them. Monday was a big win.”
Berkeley has been flawless so far with an 8-0 record, including 1-0 in the region, and faces another conference test today against Hanahan.
Cox played for Fred Jordan at Stratford High and became a disciple of small ball.
“We play defense, pitch and throw the ball long and straight,” Cox said. “If you can come up with pitching and play defense, you're going to be successful. We're going to bunt you over and steal a base.”
The Stags have only 16 extra-base hits, including one homer. But the players have bought into the philosophy and are ready to make the sacrifice bunt for the team.
“The difference between our team and others is that no one plays for himself on this team,” Cox said. “It's all about the team. We had a couple of players transfer in and we tell them you are playing for Berkeley, not yourself. It's something we preach every day.”
One of the transfers is left-handed pitcher Andrew Lockilear, who came from Northwood Academy. He's 3-0 and has an ERA under 2.00.
Gonzales, who was credited with the save Monday, also is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.47. He's batting .450 with six doubles.
Catcher Kyle Garrick is steady and reliable. He's been a starter since the eighth grade and caught every playoff game that season when the Stags competed at the Class AAAA level.
Shortstop Connor Teague and sophomore second baseman Dillon Salisbury anchor the infield.
Eric Orton has good range in center field and Baker, who had the big hit against James Island, is in left field. He is also a top-notch wide receiver in football.
Cox said James Island and Hilton Head are the biggest challengers for the region championship. He says Hanahan will be strong once its players gain experience.
“Obviously, any team coached by Tom Hatley is going to be outstanding,” Cox said. “So we are very concerned about James Island. Hilton Head has excellent pitching. Chris Wells always puts a quality product on the field.”
The Post and Courier will publish baseball statistics every other Friday beginning with the March 22 edition.
Coaches are asked to provide leaders in all offensive and pitching categories.
Statistics should be submitted by noon on March 21. Email stats to email@example.com.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil.