EASLEY—The Easley-based host team got all four of its runs in the sixth inning and benefitted from a one-hit complete game shutout by Daniel Nations to defeat Texas, 4-0, and move closer to a berth in the US semi-final game Tuesday evening.
“I feel really good,” said Easley Manager Gregg Powell. “This is a young team and there was a lot of speculation about this team before we started. After we lost that first game, we really battled back and won the last three games. Now we are really close to making it to the semifinals.”
Indiana, 3-0 is assured of a spot in the US semi-finals with a win Monday against New Jersey and would likely still reach Tuesday’s round even with a loss. Indiana has only given up two runs in the first three games. Easley, 3-1, would win the other spot outright if Florida beats California Monday. If California wins, the West Region champion will also have a 3-1 record and the decision would go to a tiebreaker. Since Easley and California did not play each other, the tiebreaker would be the runs allowed per defensive inning. Easley has given up .259 runs in 27 defensive innings. California currently has allowed .428 runs in 20 defensive innings. In order to win the tiebreaker California would have to defeat Florida and play 16 innings without giving up a run —-meaning the game would have to go through nine extra innings without Florida scoring.
Against Texas Sunday afternoon, Easley had runners on base in each of the first five innings without scoring. In the sixth, Beau Strickland led off with a single and stole second. With one out, Yoshio Saito came in as the second Texas pitcher. Trey Hayes, the first batter to face Saito, singled, scoring Strickland. Hayes later scored to make it 2-0 Easley. Wil Hartsell walked and then scored on a single by Max McDougal. Will Porter singled and then moved to second on the single by McDougald that scored Hartsell. Justin Allen reached first on an error and the bases were loaded. Tanner Lollis was hit by a pitch, scoring Porter from third to make it 4-0.
Nations, gave up a walk in the top of the seventh but got the other three batters out to preserve the victory. Nations, who played high school baseball for Daniel and will be playing for Newberry this fall, was the losing pitcher despite allowing only four hits in a 1-0 loss to Indiana on the opening day Wednesday. Sunday, he pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing one hit in the fourth inning, and striking out eight. He has a 0.46 earned run average for the tournament.
“My slider was working really well,” Nations said. “It was frustrating that we got people on base without scoring, but our guys came through.”
Powell said Wednesday that Nations had pitched on of the best games in the history of the tournament Wednesday in the loss to Indiana, but pitched even better Sunday.
“Hats off to Daniel for another great game,” he said. “Our backs were to the wall and he came through for us.”
Easley has scored 12 of its 16 runs in the tournament after in the final three innings.
“I think we are getting to see the pitchers early and then talking to the guys about things that we see they can do as we go through the game,” he said. “These are good pitchers playing here.”