Big first inning pushes Oceanside past Gray for 2A baseball title

Posted 5/24/23

A four-run first inning was a blow that Gray Collegiate couldn’t recover from as it lost by a 4-2 final score that crowned Oceanside as the South Carolina 2A state champion.

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Big first inning pushes Oceanside past Gray for 2A baseball title


A walk, an error, an RBI double, another base hit, a throw that got past the catcher and a sacrifice fly to right was how the Oceanside Collegiate Academy Landsharks started game two of the 2A state championship series against the Gray Collegiate Academy War Eagles.


The four-run first inning was a blow that Gray couldn’t recover from as they lost by a 4-2 final score that crowned Oceanside as the South Carolina 2A state champion.


“It’s the first two batters. I mean, if you’ve been in baseball a long time, everybody knows that an error and a walk will score every time,” Gray head coach Charlie Assey said after the game. “Base hits don’t beat you. But if you walk a guy or hit a batter or make an error in between a couple of hits, it’s going to lead to what happened in the first inning.”


Despite the rough start, the War Eagles settled in nicely. London Spires came in to pitch the rest of the game and didn’t allow a run, giving his team a chance to attempt a comeback later in the game.


“London Spires came in and did one heck of a job to shut them down,” Assey added. “And that’s a great team over there. Those guys are talented.”


The bats were cold for Gray most of the game as Oceanside starting pitcher Chase Jarnagin tossed five no-hit innings.


Luckily for Gray, there was more baseball to be played after those first five hitless innings. Blaine Redmond broke up the no-hitter with a base knock through the right side of the infield and Garrett Blankenship got on base with an infield hit to move Redmond into scoring position. Kendrick Wright walked and loaded the bases for Brent Stukes.


Stukes took full advantage of the opportunity and knocked in two runs with an RBI double, giving Gray new life. The War Eagles loaded up the bases with two outs but a strikeout ended the rally before Gray could cause more damage.


Assey attributes the sixth inning rally to his team’s patience at the plate and their willingness to work the count and get into Oceanside’s bullpen.


“Our guys have believed in a philosophy of mine that, every time you come out and play a high school game, the other team is putting the best guy they got on the mound that day to beat you," he said. "And if we feel like we can take a few pitches, get that guy deep into pitch counts, let him throw a lot of pitches and we hang around for five innings or six innings and stay within one or two and get to the bullpen, then we got a shot. That’s where we won a lot of ballgames.”


Assey went on to give credit to Oceanside’s bullpen and note that not many other teams can dip into their bullpen like that and not skip a beat.


Gray made it out of the bottom of the sixth after Spires got a huge strikeout with runners on second and third with two outs to avoid a deeper deficit.


In the top of the seventh, the War Eagles went down in order and after the final groundout to second base, the season was over with Gray finishing just shy of a 2A state title.


Assey has been coaching high school baseball for decades. He’s coached many teams but will always remember the 2023 Gray Collegiate team not just by the run to the championship game, but by the closeness and camaraderie of this team that stood out above any of his others since joining the school.


“This is the closest team in the locker room,” Assey said. “These guys liked each other and that’s what I’m going to miss and that’s what I told the seniors. They made this the most fun I’ve had in 20 years and 37 of coaching. They’re fun to be around. They listen to you, they buy-in for the most part on everything you try to do and it was just a lot of fun to show up at the ballpark every day.”

Gray Collegiate Academy Baseball, Oceanside Collegiate Academy Baseball, Charlie Assey, Blaine Redmond, London Spires, Brent Stukes, Kendrick Wright, Garrett Blankenship, 2A State Baseball Championship


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