MONCKS CORNER - Berkeley sophomore third baseman Chase Ganey opened the District VIII Class AAA baseball playoffs with a six-RBI performance against St. James.
On Friday night, Ganey ended the district tournament with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting the Stags to the District VIII title with a 5-4 win over visiting Marlboro County at Jim Bradley Field.
Berkeley (22-3) will host second-ranked Socastee on Monday night as part of the four-team Lower State tournament. Hartsville and Gilbert meet in the other first-round matchup in the double-elimination format.
The Stags entered Friday night as the undefeated team in the district tournament, and Marlboro County would have to beat Berkeley twice to advance. The Bulldogs (13-13) nearly forced a second game with a three-run rally in the top of the seventh to tie the game at 4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Dillon Salisbury led off with a single and stole second base - one of eight Berkeley steals on the night. With one out, Kyle Garrick was hit by a pitch and Josh Simmons walked to load the bases.
Ganey bounced a high chopper off the glove of Marlboro County shortstop Nick Rogers to score Salisbury with the winning run.
"It wasn't always pretty, but this team is so competitive they hate to lose," said Berkeley coach Landy Cox. "It was a tough, hard-fought baseball game. I give credit to Marlboro County. They never quit, and I knew they wouldn't. Their guy (pitcher Dylan Ellis) handled us very well tonight, but we found a way."
Ellis indeed stifled Berkeley's offense for most of the night, striking out 11 batters in 52/3 innings. He allowed four hits and three earned runs but also walked four and hit two batters.
Berkeley struck for two runs in the bottom of the first with Zach Gonzales and Josh Simmons delivering RBI singles.
The Bulldogs scratched for a run in the fifth, chasing Berkeley starter Joe Glauser. Glauser allowed two hits and fanned six before being replaced by Jeffery Stone. Kenny Roller's sacrifice fly cut the Berkeley lead in half.
Berkeley added a run, without a hit, in the fifth, and tacked on a fourth run in the sixth when Connor Teague doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Marlboro County put together four hits in the seventh off Stone and, aided by an error, tied the game on Brixx Cribb's RBI single with two outs.
For Cox and the Stags, Monday's opponent is very familiar.
"Two years ago we knocked them out of the playoffs and last year they eliminated us so we know each other very well," Cox said. "They're very good. You don't get to be ranked second in the state by accident."