Ashley Ridge battled through 22 innings this week to claim the Region 8-AAAA baseball championship.
A productive first inning was the major difference Monday as the Swamp Foxes earned a 5-3 victory over Summerville to move into first place for the region. Aggressive base running and a crucial error were major factors Wednesday when Ashley Ridge fought Colleton County for 15 innings to earn a 4-3 win and clinch the region championship outright.
The Swamp Foxes (17-4, 9-1) close out their schedule Friday with a non-region game at West Ashley and will enter the playoffs as a top seed.
Ashley Ridge coach B.J. Bellush says his team has made quite a turnaround from last season when it only won 11 games.
“It all starts with the senior leadership, but also our younger guys are preforming like seasoned players,” Bellush said. “They are mentally tough and a fun group to coach. From the day our season ended last year these guys hit the weight room and then you could tell there was an attitude change during fall workouts. I’m very proud of the kids and our coaching staff. Coach Givens, Coach Fletcher, Coach Rose and Coach Deering do a great job and that makes my job easier.”
After getting out of the top of the first inning against Summerville with a double play, the Swamp Foxes scored 3 runs during their first turn at bat. Ashley Ridge leadoff batter Wesley Aschenbrenner reached on a walk and moved around on a bunt-single by Josh Litchfield and a Summerville throwing error. Aaron Miller followed with a deep single to drive in both base runners. Miller moved to second on the throw home and then stole third. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Miller for a 3-0 Swamp Fox lead entering the second.
Ashley Ridge loaded the bases the next inning off two walks and a Josh Church single. Then Litchfield reached on a fielder’s choice that drove in Nick Rowell for a 4-0 Swamp Fox lead.
Summerville cut the lead in half in the fourth. Billy Peatross was hit by a pitch and scored off a single by Sawyer Bridges. Andrew Kenney then hit a grounder the Swamp Foxes attempted to turn into a double play. Ashley Ridge got the first out but not the second and Matty Powell scored on the throw.
Rowell led off the bottom of the frame with a double and scored of a single by Church for a 5-2 lead that held until the final inning.
Summerville’s T.J. Hopkins led off the seventh with a homerun to cut the lead to 2. Johnston McCurry then reached on an error but Ashley Ridge closed the game with a fly out and an unusual double play. Peatross struck out but McCurry got a good jump on the pitch and seemed to have stolen second. However, the umpire ruled Peatross had interfered with the catcher’s throw to the bag and Ashley Ridge was awarded the third out.
The win avenges a 4-3 loss Ashley Ridge suffered at Summerville on April 2.
“We played better defense tonight,” Bellush said. “We didn’t make the errors we made against them the first time.”
Carson Walls put in a gutsy performance on the hill to earn the pitching win. He threw six-plus innings and allowed seven hits and three runs. He walked three, hit two batters with pitches and struck out one. Jason Miller relieved him after the homerun and retired two of three batters he faced. The third reached on an error.
“Carson didn’t have his best stuff tonight but he wanted the ball,” Bellush said.
“He wanted to go out there in the seventh and I probably shouldn’t have let him but then Jason came in and sealed the deal.
“They both showed great mental toughness.”
Church led the Ashley Ridge batters, going 2 for 3 at the plate. Aschenbrenner reached base four times.
Hopkins was 2 for 4 at the plate and reached base once on a walk. Peatross also reached base three times for Summerville.
On Wednesday, Church threw six and one-third innings and Jason Miller pitched eight and two-thirds innings to pick up the win in relief. The teams entered the 13th inning tied at 1.
With the help of two free bases and a throwing error, Colleton pushed 2 runs across in the top of the frame.
In the bottom of the inning, Rusty Grayson and Jason Miller reached on walks to set up an RBI single from Hunter Grover. After a double steal, Miller scored on a wild pitch to retie the game.
Jason Miller opened the bottom of the 15th inning with a single.
Grover moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Miller headed to third on the throw to first. He tripped on his way and was called out at third, but after meeting the officials ruled an infielder had interfered with his path to the base so he was awarded third.
With two outs, Cooper Knowles hit a grounder that was mishandled by a Colleton infielder and that allowed Miller to come home for the game-winning run.