Wando derails Wildcats in opener


The first two outs were easy enough, the third was a bit more tricky.

Wando head coach Dirk Thomas knew West Ashley wouldn't go down without a fight. With his team holding on to a two-run lead entering the bottom of the seventh, Thomas called in closer Harrison Smith to go against the heart of the order.

Eight pitches in, two were already away. Then a hit, walk and a balk, and the Wildcats had runners at second and third with the winning run at the plate. Smith tipped his cap, dug in, threw three straight strikes and walked off the mound with his fist in the air.

Wando defeated West Ashley, 5-3, in the opening round of the Class AAAA Lower State tournament Saturday in Charleston. The Warriors advance to host Sumter on Monday in the second round, while the Wildcats host Lexington.

"Against a team like West Ashley, you know it's not going to be easy," Thomas said. "They're not a team to give up with two outs. (Smith) did a great job against some quality hitters and really toughed it out when we need it."

Senior right-hander Mark Evans earned the win for Wando, giving up three earned runs off five hits and four walks with four strikeouts through six innings. Evans battled with Wildcats junior Jordan Merritt, who struck out seven but allowed four earned runs off eight hits and four walks in seven innings.

Kep Brown put Wando (18-8) on top in the top of the first with a two-out, two-run double to deep center to score Tyler Ackard and Oliver Hill. Ackard lined a single to right field in the fifth to drive in Andrew Lee and open a 3-0 Warriors lead.

Merritt tied the game for West Ashley in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out, three-run double to left field that brought in Logan Butler, J.C. Rodriguez and Tyrie Blalock.

Owen Ravenel countered for Wando with two outs in the sixth with a single to left to score Brown. West Ashley (21-6) loaded the bases in the bottom frame but Evans escaped with a strikeout to end the inning.

"It comes down to executing and somebody getting the big hit," West Ashley head coach Mitch Miggenburg said. "We got away from what we do well at times. We battled and competed and did everything we could. It was a lot of fun but we just couldn't get the big hit when we needed it."

Wando loaded the bases off a single, error and intentional walk with no outs in the seventh. Merritt hit Jack DeLongchamps with a pitch to bring home Trevor Pederson and extend a 5-3 lead.

West Ashley left eight runners stranded, five in scoring position. Merritt led West Ashley at the plate, hitting 2 for 4 with three RBIs. No other Wildcats had more than one hit.

Ravenel finished 2 for 3 with an RBI, Pedersen 2 for 4 with a run scored and Brown 1 for 2 with two RBIs, a run scored and two walks.

"Small things can go unnoticed throughout the game, but in a game like tonight I think that's what made the difference," Thomas said. "Sometimes you just play the game as hard as you can and live with what's dealt, with no regrets after that."