Members of Beaufort County's select squad spent a lot of time at Burton Wells Park working on their hitting before the Dixie Boys State Tournament.
The practice did little to prepare them for Laurens starter Tristian Smaltz, who Beaufort faced Saturday in the opening round. Smaltz threw a variety of offspeed pitches and made Beaufort County players scramble to adjust.
"We don't even give batting practice that slow," shortstop Porter Mahan said. "We didn't have the timing down at all on it."
Beaufort County batters moved up in the box and sat back and waited. Once they knocked Smaltz from the game, the rest was easy. The host team poured it on late and defeated Laurens 14-4 in six innings to advance.
Beaufort County will face Chester at 7 p.m. today.
Aaron Brantley pitched five strong innings for Beaufort County. When Laurens finally got on the board in the fifth, tying the game at two, Beaufort's batters went to work on Smaltz.
Tyler Carroll led off the bottom of the fifth with a single. Mahan drove him in with a double and chased Smaltz from the game.
Smaltz's harder-throwing replacements, Brayden Gibbs and Ryan Cain, better suited Beaufort County hitters.
"We went in, got some hits and got our attitudes back up," said left fielder John Sturgis, who had a double and a triple and scored three times.
Beaufort County center fielder Henry Schubert went 3 for 3 and drove in two runs. He also scored three times. Connor Gruel and Carroll each scored twice for the hosts.
Brantley said the team benefited from limiting its errors, the defense part of the all-stars' practice regimine leading into the tournament. Host Beaufort County didn't have to play its way in via a district tournament, settling for a couple of scrimmages with the Junior Boys team. The lack of live innings might have affected players early, Mahan said.
"You've always got to get the first game out of your head," he said. "Even warming up, we had some problems. Once you get into the game, adrenaline and everything, you just start hitting."
Beaufort County scored six runs in the fifth to help break the game open. And it added six more in the bottom of the sixth to end the game by run rule, saving coach Darrell Gruel from using any more of reliever Schubert's pitch count.
Brantley said he felt strong early but that he started missing some spots late. With Dixie baseball's pitch count restrictions, strategy comes into play in the late innings, with thoughts toward future games.
Beaufort's defense helped relieve some of the pressure.
"You know if they put the ball in play, you can rely on your defense," Brantley said.
Dixie Boys State Tournament
Through Thursday, Burton Wells Park, Beaufort
Admission: $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under 5 are free.
Saturday's scores: Beaufort County 14, Laurens 4; Chester 9, Edisto 4; Sumter 10, Aiken 6; Lexington 6, McLeod Park 5; Georgetown 6, Summerville 1; Westminster 10, Midland 8
Today's games: Aiken vs. Summerville, 1 p.m.; McLeod Park vs. Midland, 1 p.m.; Edisto vs. Laurens, 4 p.m.; Sumter vs. Georgetown, 4 p.m.; Lexington vs. Westminster, 7 p.m.; Beaufort County vs. Chester, 7 p.m.