CHAPIN — Bishop England’s streak of winning state baseball championships in odd-numbered years came to an end Friday night as the Chesnee Eagles captured the Class AA state championship with a 5-3 victory in the state title series finale.
Bishop England was seeking its fifth state title since 2003, all in odd- numbered years, but the Eagles came away with their second title in four years.
Chesnee’s Bobby Foos delivered the big blow in the game, blasting a bases loaded triple in the fifth inning as part of a four-run inning to lead the Eagles to victory.
Trailing 5-0 and down to their last three outs, Bishop England rallied for three runs in the final inning and had the bases loaded with two outs when the final out was recorded.
“I thought we battled to the end and I’m proud of our guys,” said Bishops head coach Mike Darnell. “We had some things go against us tonight but we never quit. We had a good year. It didn’t end the way we had hoped but that happens sometimes.”
Bishop England threatened to take an early lead, loading the bases in the third. But, Chesnee pitcher Jordan Wilkinson induced a 6-4-3 double play grounder from Harrison Boals to end the threat.
Chesnee scratched for a run in the fourth, with Colby Grant scoring on Jimmy Yelton’s fielder’s choice as Bishop England failed to turn a double play to escape the inning.
The Eagles appeared to put the game away in the fifth but not without controversy. After Chesnee loaded the bases with one out, Clarey struck out Colton Grant for the second out.
Facing Chesnee’s best hitter, Drew Fisher with two outs, Clarey fell behind in the count, 3-1. In a quick step off move, Clarey appeared to have picked off Tristen Swofford at third to end the threat. The umpire called Swofford safe, bringing Darnell out of the dugout. After a brief but intense argument by Darnell, Clarey walked Fisher for a 2-0 Chesnee lead.
“He was out, clearly out,” said Darnell after the game. “He (the umpire) told me that the runner got his hand in before the tag. Not what I saw and not what happened. That turned out to be a huge play.”
Huge indeed. Jamie Garrett replaced Clarey on the mound and Foos jumped on the first pitch fastball with a drive into the right center gap, scoring three runs.
“We brought in a curveball pitcher and he throws a fastball,” Darnell said.
In the seventh, Bishop England put together four singles, combined with a walk and a hit batsmen, to score three runs on RBI singles from Reed Fosberry, Harrison Boals and Cameron Garrett. With two outs and the bases jammed, Chesnee reliever Parker Babcock got Griffin Herbert to ground to third for the final out.
“I have no idea if the two best teams in AA were on the field tonight but there were definitely two evenly-matched baseball teams in this series and it was good baseball all week long,” said Darnell. “Chesnee is a good baseball team and I think we were a good baseball team. Only one can win.”