Bulldogs blank Cougars, 7-0

Balls bounce in fortuitous or frustrating ways depending on such factors as spin, infield dirt composition and spheroid seams not quite similarly sewn. When the truly complex teenage brain comes into play, presto, we have that uniquely American entertainment known as high school baseball.

It has never been better in the Lowcountry.

At least not so widespread.

How appropriate that the Hanahan High Hawks' Hines brothers, Brett and Bryce, pitched back-to-back complete games Friday night to eliminate Bishop England in the Class AA Lower State playoff finals. This is a family ties thing.

There is more than a common thread binding unprecedented 2010 high school success at Academic Magnet and Coastal Christian, Wando's Drew Cisco-led run into national rankings these last two seasons, and Bishop England's 2009 state championship.

Such success springs from springs past and bygone sandlots.

The late Johnnie Dodds coached an aggressive little boy who became Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., whose name graces the home of Charleston's minor league baseball team, which once had Hanahan's own Bryce Florie on its pitching staff before Florie went on to a nice major league career.

Florie was standing aside an indoor pitching mound one night last week quietly offering tips to Cisco, whose pal and Wando teammate has been Robbie Dodds, grandson of Johnnie Dodds, once a professional prospect talked about as regally around Lowcountry diamonds as Mike Cisco, Drew's older brother currently pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies' Double-A affiliate.

West Ashley influence

Mike Cisco played at South Carolina with former Bishop England shortstop Reese Havens, a New York Mets first-round draft pick, and Justin Smoak, currently blasting home runs for the Texas Rangers.

Havens followed in the Bishop England/South Carolina footsteps of Drew Meyer, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2002. Smoak played for esteemed head coach John Chalus at Stratford High School, where one of his teammates was fellow first-round major league draft pick Matt Wieters, the Baltimore

Orioles soon-to-be All-Star catcher.

Richard Wieters, Matt's father, was one of the Citadel's best players ever and a legendary figure in a family famous for ruling West Ashley ballfields for years.

The influence of West Ashley youth baseball on generations of players and coaches seeps into the later success of programs in North Charleston, James Island, Summerville and Goose Creek -- all blessed with coaches preaching fundamentals and work ethic.

Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White was a baseball star on James Island.

North Charleston keeps winning more than its share of age-division championships.

Veteran youth league coach Timmy Linker continues to mentor in West Ashley.

Recreation departments have found ways to open less competitive leagues for kids who simply love the game.

There are still holes in the system, mostly that not enough black and Latino children are involved in baseball. But from American Legion past to travel league present, lots of good stuff filters up.

Inspired by Gardner

Fred Jordan coached at Fort Johnson, James Island and Stratford high schools before starting his two-decade stint at The Citadel, where baseball persistence is year-round.

But Jordan's job gets tougher every year, partly because he raised the Southern Conference bar. Furman next season will have current Bishop England star Alex Abrams, a former summer league teammate of Wofford's Bradley Evsich.

Abrams and Evsich, plus the Ciscos and Dodds and too college and pro signees to mention, have played for John Rhodes' state-of-the-art elite Diamond Devils summer teams.

Before that, many of the same players as pre-teens won national titles in places like Cooperstown, N.Y., playing for travel league coaches such as Eddie Barwick.

Now here comes a wave of young talent: Hanahan starts seven sophomores, Academic Magnet is led by sophomore slugger David Redden, and Coastal Christian's exceptionally young team includes the formidable McBreairty brothers, Jake and Noah.

Of course, not all of the kids currently playing baseball in the Lowcountry are talented enough to start for the Diamond Devils or Texas Rangers. But lots of overlooked and undersized outfielders out there are inspired by former College of Charleston speedster Brett Gardner, now starting for the New York Yankees.

Gardner knows stealing bases isn't easy in the American League East, not with Matt Wieters behind the plate for the Orioles.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.