The Wando High School baseball team opened the season with two losses at the IP Classic, suffered through the heartache of Major League prospect Kep Brown’s torn Achilles midway through the schedule, and had its share of pitching injuries in the postseason.
But senior Harrison Smith and his teammates are going to the AAAA state championship series after downing Carolina Forest, 2-0, in the Lower State title game Friday night at Warrior Field.
Wando (23-8) will face Greenville’s J.L. Mann High School in a best-of-three series starting Monday night in Mount Pleasant. Game 2 is Wednesday night at J.L. Mann with Game 3, if necessary, at a neutral site to be determined.
Wando reached the state championship series once before, losing to Gaffney in 2009.
“I’m just real proud of these guys,” Wando head coach Dirk Thomas said. “It shows their mental toughness, their selflessness. They don’t mind someone else getting the spotlight. Every guy feels so grateful for that other guy.”
Seniors Oliver Hill and Owen Ravenel delivered RBI hits off Carolina Forest’s formidable Andrew Brong in the second inning. That was enough for Smith, a South Carolina signee who held the Panthers to three hits over seven innings.
“I’ve been playing with these guys for as long as I can remember,” Smith said. “We’ve always played some good baseball so we knew something special could happen this year.”
Smith got the win in relief Saturday at South Aiken, and also homered in the eight-inning victory. But he stayed home sick for Monday night’s 2-1 win over Carolina Forest.
Third baseman Jack Delongchamps made the defensive play of the game Friday night, diving to stop a two-out grounder with two runners aboard before firing to first baseman Tyler Ackard for the third out in the sixth inning.
“It means a lot for the program,” Thomas said. “This is my fifth year here and every year this has been the goal. We were really, really close last year. At the end of the year last year I thought we let one get away. You sometimes think ‘Maybe that was our chance.’ But we overcame everything this year and that was part of the process. Those losses early came back and helped us.”
Carolina Forest (21-11) battled back to Friday with a Wednesday night loser’s bracket win over Sumter. Jack Jolly, the only head coach in the history of the Myrtle Beach school, won his 400th game earlier this season.