Beaufort News

Layoff matters little as Lowcountry Heat rout Conway in American Legion baseball playoff series opener

Lowcountry Heat's Sean Holm grabs a grounder Monday night during the American Legion baseball playoff game against Conway on Hilton Head Island.
Lowcountry Heat's Sean Holm grabs a grounder Monday night during the American Legion baseball playoff game against Conway on Hilton Head Island. Sarah Welliver

Two weeks passed without the Lowcountry Heat seeing a baseball field, the team's last five games decided not with bats and gloves but instead by forfeits.

Naturally, coach Chris Seelbach and Co. were expecting that long layoff to result in some rust Monday night during Post 185's playoff opener against Conway at Hilton Head Island High School.

Not so much. The Heat put the ball in play and took advantage of five Post 111 errors before Logan Phillips' crushing three-run homer in the eighth inning propelled Post 185 to an 11-5 win in the best-of-five series opener.

"We had a little rust," Seelbach said. "Fortunately they had a little rust, too. That helped us out. We put the ball in play a lot better than I thought we would, having not seen live pitching in a while."

Post 185 (13-5) took what had been a 1-1 ballgame and turned it into a rout by night's end, thanks in part to a four-run fourth inning in which it tallied only one hit. The Heat had three Post 111 miscues to thank for the decisive inning, as left fielder Brandon Young allowed a pair of runners to score on his dropped fly ball while Graham Herrington's miscue at shortstop allowed another to come home.

John Sheehan capped the rally with an RBI single, one of three hits the shortstop had on the night to go along with a pair of walks.

"The bats, I know some of these guys play ball on the side and everything, but a couple of them just came back and haven't played in three weeks," right-hander Chance Murphy said. "I (thought) their swings were going to be a little bit rusty."

He was happy to be wrong. The Bluffton pitcher took his early run support and turned it into his third consecutive complete game, as he allowed just two earned runs while scattering 11 hits on 107 pitches.

The long layoff had little effect on Murphy (3-0), who pitched as recently as last weekend with his U-17 showcase team, the Carolina Dream. The righty struggled to keep pitches down early, as discomfort in his knee left him fighting to drive off the mound and get the ball downhill, but he recovered to record 17 ground balls.

"With the defense I have behind me, it makes it easy to go that far," said Murphy, who has a 1.63 ERA this season. "As long as I get ground balls and keep it from going out of the ballpark and giving up base hits and everything, I know I'm going to win at the end of the day."

Murphy said he knew the game was over when Phillips upped the advantage to six in the eighth. Phillips turned on a 2-2 inside fastball and deposited it over the left field fence for a three-run blast. It was the first home run of the season for the Lowcountry Heat and the second in the American Legion career of the Post 185 designated hitter.

"I wasn't really catching up," Phillips said. "My swing was long. It's been a couple weeks since we played, really. I was just waiting on the next one and got a hold of it.

" ... Everyone was really ready to play. That's all we really needed, was to get out here and get our swings back. Get a little confidence."

The Heat will look to move within a win of advancing to next week's round of postseason action Tuesday at 7 p.m., as the two teams reconvene for Game 2 at Hilton Head High. Left-hander Mat Clark will take the hill for the Heat.

"Any coach, any player always wants to get that first game to have breathing room and relax," Murphy said. "If you're down one, you're already pressing to get a game under your belt. ... It's always better for the guys to know they're up by one."

Conway 100 001 210 -- 5 11 5

Lowcountry Heat 001 402 04X -- 11 11 4

WP: Chance Murphy (3-0) 9 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

LP: Bryce McCord 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Top hitters: Conway -- Brandon Young 2 for 5, HR, 2B, RBI; Bryce McCord 2 for 5; Morgan Ward 2 for 4, R; Dylan Jordan 2 for 4. Lowcountry Heat -- John Sheehan 3 for 4, 2 BB; RBI; Randy Young 2 for 3, BB, RBI; Logan Phillips 1 for 3, 2 BB, HR, 3 RBI; Grant Youmans 2 for 4, 2B.