The Wando High School baseball team struggled at times during the regular season. James Island won the Region 7 title. Wando won hard-fought series with 2013 and 2014 region champion West Ashley and traditionally strong Stratford.
After reaching the Class AAAA state championship series for only the second time in school history, the Warriors share credit with Region 7 competition.
Lower State champion Wando (23-8) plays host to Upper State champion J.L. Mann (25-4) on Monday at 7 p.m. in Game 1 of a best-of-three state championship series. Game 2 is Wednesday night at J.L. Mann’s Holden Field in Greenville with Game 3, if necessary, Friday night at a neutral site.
Senior third baseman/catcher Jack Delongchamps went through the list of Region 7 pitchers Wando faced. James Island’s Patrick Finklestein, West Ashley’s Jordan Merritt, Anthony Vincelli and Ryan McDonald, and Stratford’s Jamison Mobbs and Eddie Hiott are all college commits. Stratford junior Justin Walker pitched a shutout against Wando.
“When you see that kind of pitching in the regular season, the playoffs come around and you’ve seen it, you’re ready to go,” Delongchamps said Sunday. “To be able to prepare like that has definitely given us an edge on the competition.”
It’s a special time for Wando’s 12 seniors. The talent is so deep that third baseman/pitcher Owen Ravenel is 6-0 as a pitcher and leads the team with 31 hits but isn’t among the group’s seven college signees (he plans to walk on at Clemson but is open to other offers). Other non-committed players are steady outfielders Max Fries and Peyton Muller, right-handed pitcher Ethan Keane and lefty pitcher Calvin Morse.
Keane threw a 66-pitch complete game against Carolina Forest in the Lower State final round last week.
Morse hasn’t allowed a run all season.
The college-bound players are first baseman Tyler Ackard (Limestone), outfielder Kep Brown (Miami), Delongchamps (Charleston Southern), second baseman Oliver Hill (Spartanburg Methodist), pitcher Jeff Gottesman (Bucknell), catcher Noah LoCasio (William & Mary) and pitcher/outfielder Harrison Smith (South Carolina).
“We had the same kind of playoff run going last year, but we lost a little too soon,” Fries said. “It’s fun to win. It’s fun to get what we deserve for working so hard.”
Most of the seniors have played together since they were 10, at least.
“It’s always been our goal to get here,” Ravenel said. “Now that we’re here, it’s kind of surreal.”
Wando, in its only other state championship series appearance, lost to Gaffney in 2009.
J.L. Mann was ranked No. 2 and Wando No. 6 in the most recent S.C. Baseball Coaches Association poll (April 29). Wando was the preseason No. 1 with J.L. Mann No. 4.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff