The Beaufort Ospreys will start their ace tonight, that much is certain.
Shane Dixon will throw as Post 9/207 opens the best-of-five American Legion playoff series at Lexington. Beyond that, Ospreys coach Mike Smith hopes for more stories like the one from this past Friday.
Matt Kardohely, a little-used reliever, came on for Dixon in the regular-season finale at Goose Creek and pitched two solid innings, helping the Ospreys defeat the League I champions and secure the No. 3 seed for the postseason. Smith is confident in the depth of his starting pitching, but in a series format like this, and nine-inning games, performances like Kardohely's will help determine which team advances.
"Not that he was blowing people away," Smith said. "He was throwing strikes and they were putting the ball in play. He kept them off-balance enough that they weren't able to square him up good."
After Dixon, Austin Willis-Greene will probably start Game 2 in Beaufort, Smith said. Smith's other options include Mitchell Stewart, who earned the save Friday, Matt Thorpe and Thomas Smith, who earned the victory at Goose Creek.
Smith has asked the pitching staff to limit its walks and force the ball into play. He believes a full Ospreys roster will be competitive.
Post 9/207 was without standouts Mark Jones and David Tilton on Friday. Others filled in, as has been the case throughout the summer. Beaufort (7-9) has dealt with the same issues other Legion teams face -- vacations, college visits and other obligations placed in front of baseball. Outside of that, weather forced several games to be postponed and one game, umpires never arrived.
Smith believes he has his entire team available this week and has overcome the idle weeks.
"It's always good to end on a high note," Smith said. "That certainly revved us up. I hope it will carry over."
The Ospreys don't know much about Lexington. Smith learned a little by talking to coaches at a meeting in Manning on Saturday. From what Smith heard, Lexington has had similar issues with missing players.
With its pitching staff intact and the likes of Jones and Tilton back in the lineup, the Ospreys should have a chance against the No. 2 seed from the Midlands, Smith said.
"Any time we have our ace of the staff going, and we have, defensively, all our guys in the right places, we can compete with anybody," he said. "And we've kind of proven that throughout the year, even though we've had our ups and downs at times. It's been a season where when we've got everybody there and ready to go, we put on a pretty good game."