Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 9:29 a.m.
Laurens Academy sits stately on a hill, its gray buildings providing a backdrop for the diamond below. The home of the Crusaders is on S.C. 49 between interstate highways 385 and 26.
I’d never been there until I wrote about the South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) opening its Class A state semifinals with the Crusaders taking on the Warhawks of Colleton Prep. The last time I saw private schools tussle, it was in football and in the 1980s.
It’s a long way from Walterboro to Laurens. According to my phone, it took two hours, 22 minutes, and 157 miles to traverse the distance, and Laurens Academy will return the favor today for game two of the best-of-three series. If Colleton Prep wins at home, as Laurens Academy did on Tuesday, then a decisive game will be played at a neutral site on Friday.
The likely site of that game, should it be played, is Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, which is located on the south side of Columbia, 76 miles from Laurens and 94 from Walterboro.
Suffice it to say that these two teams are spending more time on the bus than they are on the field.
The Crusaders (19-6) defeated the Warhawks (17-5) by a score of 7-6 on a two-out, two-run double by center fielder Josh Urwick while I watched from the press box, atop the Colleton Prep dugout, with, among others, Josh’s father Alan and, for part of the game, his older brother Matthew. Alan is the public-address announcer, so, in a way, he was mimicking the famous description of Dale Jarrett’s Daytona 500 victory by his father, Ned.
“Dale Jarrett wins the Daytona 500!” Alan was less personal, but so, too, is baseball between teams as compared to racing between drivers.
Alan didn’t say a word he wouldn’t have had any other player from the home nine come through in such dramatic fashion, but the inflection of his voice may have been ever so slightly more exultant. A man must strain to contain his enthusiasm when flesh and blood is involved.
I had a lovely time. I was fairly excited by my first visit to Laurens Academy because I generally enjoy new experiences that do not involve gastric distress. No such complications occurred from Rod Holmes’ boiled peanuts. Rod’s son, Ryan, collected a hit, scored a run and was hit by a pitch, all of which his father dutifully recorded by operating the scoreboard.
Everything about the evening was cordial and sportsmanlike, beginning with the lady selling tickets who allowed me to park as close as possible to the field. My compact pickup was perched atop the bluff. I discovered that the Laurens Academy head coach, Darryl Halbert, shared a devotion to the Boston Red Sox. I chatted with fans who had followed their team up to Laurens from the Low Country, cataloguing the difference in dialect between South Carolina upper and lower. Only Yankees think we all sound alike. Natives know better. They say they love to hear us talk but don’t really listen as closely as we do to one another.
The game? Oh, it was played raucously. Laurens Academy once led 4-0 but trailed 6-5 until Josh’s clutch double, laced to right field. My GoLaurens.com account can be accessed here. Each team committed three errors. The Warhawks outhit the Crusaders, 8-6, but LA grouped three of its in the span of the final five plate appearances.
The infield grass at Crusaders Field is lush and slow, and Colleton Prep began the game getting acquainted to the unusually slow progress of ground balls, or that’s what I concluded after the Warhawks got better at it as the game progressed. After spotting the home team four runs, Colleton came from behind with two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth. Plus, they stopped taking their time on ground balls and started occasionally retiring runners at first.
Now it’s off to the hills of northwestern South Carolina to see if the Clinton Red Devils can stave off Upstate 3A elimination against the Seneca High Bobcats.
Baseball, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Maybe not. My knowledge of mathematics gets shaky when the numbers aren’t finite.
Miracle of miracles. All four of my novels are available in both Kindle (and free apps usable in virtually anything electronic and communicative) and print. The latest is called Forgive Us Our Trespasses. It’s a bold ripsnorter of a crime novel.
My fable on life’s absurdity, in the person of a football coach subjected to all manner of crises, is called Crazy of Natural Causes.
I’ve put together a collection of short stories, all 11 born in songs I wrote, aptly entitled Longer Songs.
My historical novel, set in the 1960s, of the South, civil rights, integration, bigotry, and high school football, is called The Intangibles.
The adventures of a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero is known as The Audacity of Dope.
If you’ve read them, particularly Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I’d appreciate a customer review at amazon.com and/or goodreads.com.