Berkeley on brink of elimination

Berkeley High is in the midst of what could be considered the best baseball season in school history. But, the season has come to a tipping point in the AAA District VIII playoffs.

Berkeley lost for only the third time this season on Wednesday night, falling to visiting Socastee, 11-2. The Stags must beat Darlington at home tonight and win twice at Socastee on Friday night to advance to the next round.

Fortunately for Berkeley, the Stags have been here before. Last season, Berkeley won an elimination game and then swept two games at Cane Bay to advance to the Lower State series.

“These kids will not quit. It’s not in them to quit,” said Berkeley coach Landy Cox. “Nearly every kid on this team was a part of what we did last year. They know they can do it. This season is not over and I’m sure our kids will play very hard until it is over.”

Wednesday night’s game was originally scheduled for Monday, but was rained out on consecutive days. The layoff seemed to affect the Stags more.

Berkeley fell behind early and never recovered, giving up three unearned runs in the second inning and four more runs in the third. Stags starter Zach Gonzalez came into the game with a 9-0 record but failed to finish the third inning.

“We probably made three errors on our home field all season, and tonight we kicked it around some,” said Cox. “Zach was pitching from behind a lot and Socastee is a very good hitting team. You can’t make mistakes because they make you pay.”

Berkeley managed six hits in the game, three by designated hitter Josh Simmons. Shortstop Connor Teague had the only RBI, a groundout in the third to cut the lead to 7-2.

Socastee added a run in the fifth and three more in the seventh. Socastee third baseman Kyle Smith had five RBIs, while center fielder Hunter Renfrow had four.

Berkeley (22-3) will have ace left-hander Andrew Lockliear (6-1, 1.66 ERA) available for tonight’s game.

“We have to swing the bats better than we did tonight, that’s for sure,” said Cox. “I’m surprised we didn’t hit any better than we did tonight to be honest. Andrew will give us a chance but we have to swing it better.”