Berkeley cruises to district finals

- The Berkeley Stags are one confident bunch, especially on their home baseball field.

Facing Marlboro County's ace, Coastal Carolina signee Connor Pate, in the winner's bracket game of the Class AAA District VIII high school playoffs, the veteran Stags walked off with a 13-1 victory in six innings.

Senior catcher Kyle Garrick delivered the official game-winning blow, a grand slam to left with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to invoke the 10-run rule, but the Stags put this game away much earlier.

Berkeley (21-3) will advance to the District VIII finals on Friday night with the winner of Wednesday's elimination game forced to come to Moncks Corner and beat the Stags twice. Considering Berkeley has won 28 of its last 30 home games, the Stags have to be feeling pretty good about their chances.

Elsewhere in AAA baseball, James Island stayed alive with an 11-1 win over Lakewood and plays an elimination game Wednesday. Hanahan was elimiated in an 11-3 loss at Strom Thurmond.

In Class AAAA, Ashley Ridge defeated Dutch Fork, 4-1, and must win twice at Wando on Wednesday for the District VIII title. Summerville survived with a 7-6 win over Aiken in nine innings, and must win twice at top-ranked Sumter on Wednesday to advance to Lower State.

In AA, Academic Magnet stayed alive with a 5-4 win over Bamberg-Ehrhardt and plays at Bishop England on Wednesday for the district title.

Berkeley coach Landy Cox likes the confidence of his veteran team, which has a lot of three-year starters.

"They are certainly a confident baseball team, especially at home," Cox said. "I worry sometimes that maybe we might be too confident but really this team just loves to compete and they are very focused on winning. We pitch well, we play good defense, and lately we have been scoring some runs."

Garrick finished the night with two hits, five runs batted-in and three runs scored coming off a three-hit game in Friday night's win over St. James. He began the season 0-for-23 but is now hitting over .400 for the season.

Senior shortstop Connor Teague added three RBI and sophomore third baseman Chase Ganey had two hits and scored twice.

Cox says getting two early runs on Pate was a big key in helping his team breathe easy.

"He (Pate) is good and he's gonna be really good in a few years," said Cox. "We got the early lead and then he settled in pretty good until the fourth. We just try to keep pressure on people. We like to get people on base and run around some and I think we forced them into a few mistakes."

Junior second baseman Dillon Salisbury delivered a first-inning RBI double, scoring Eric Orton, and Garrick later delivered Salisbury with a sacrifice fly to left for a 2-0 lead.

Marlboro County cut the margin to 2-1 with a run in the fourth before the Stags answered with a three run fourth to take a 5-1 lead. In the sixth, Garrick led off the inning with a walk and later scored. Teague delivered two runs with a high chopper over a drawn in infield. Two hit batters and a walk later set the stage for Garrick's bomb capped the eight-run outburst.

Berkeley starter Joe Glauser went 31/3 innings before giving way to senior Jeffery Stone, who went the final 22/3 innings to earn the victory.