Former major leaguer and Hanahan High star Bryce Florie's first season as the head baseball coach at Northwood Academy had its share of ups and downs this spring.
The season came to an end on Monday night as the Chargers lost a first-round doubleheader to Laurence Manning Academy in the SCISA Class AAA state playoffs. Northwood lost the first game, 6-3, and dropped Game 2, 10-0.
The Chargers finish with an 11-7 record, and Florie came away pleased overall.
"I thought with the level of talent and experience that we had when we started this season, we had a pretty good season," said Florie. "We ran into a better team tonight. They were more experienced, bigger and stronger. We had three seniors, and our two starting pitchers tonight were a sophomore and a freshman.
"We have to become better at everything, but mainly we have to find baseball players who are serious about the game and who will work year-round to become better baseball players. If we can do that, we have a chance to compete here."
Laurence Manning senior Mark Pipkin proved to be nearly a one-man wrecking crew, blasting a game-changing grand slam in Game 1 and pitching four shutout innings in Game 2.
The Chargers had command of the opener behind sophomore starter Jon Glee, but the Swampcats used a five-run fifth inning to take a 6-3 victory.
Pipkin delivered the big blow with a grand slam high to left after the Swampcats loaded the bases with only hit.
Northwood scored single runs in the first, third and fourth, but left eight runners on base through the first four innings.
Glee was effective through the first four innings, allowing only three hits, but led off the fifth by hitting pinch-hitter Buddy Bleasdale. Shortstop J.T. Eppley followed with a bunt single and Glee walked Cagney Brunson. After an error on a grounder to short allowed one run to score, Pipkin's blast made it 6-3.
"The difference, in my mind, was we had our chances early to score some runs against a very good pitcher and we left them out there," said Florie. "We left eight guys on base in the first four innings. If we manage to score a few of those early, who knows? They get the bases loaded and their big guy delivers a big hit."
Laurence Manning starter Linc Powell went the distance, facing the minimum over the final three innings. Powell allowed two earned runs on six hits while fanning five.
Northwood junior third baseman Will Lloyd led the Chargers' offensive attack with three hits in four at-bats.
Game two was all Laurence Manning as the Swampcats scored eight runs in the first three innings and Pipkin dominated on the mound. The 6-4, 230-pound right-hander, headed to The Citadel in the Fall, allowed one hit and struck out seven in four innings of work.
Right fielder Davis Martin had a pair of two-run doubles to highlight the offensive attack for Laurence Manning but Northwood committed seven errors leading to five unearned runs.
Laurence Manning (12-6) advances to play defending state champion Hammond on Friday.
For Northwood, the season ended the playing careers of three seniors - outfielder Noah Hammond, infielder Drew Duncan and catcher Daniel Duncan.