Post 20 Greenwood Braves pitcher Jackson Dempsey found himself in a pivotal spot Monday night against Post 52 Easley.
Dempsey entered the sixth inning with two outs and a runner on second and was tasked with protecting a one-run lead for Greenwood. He initially struggled with his command, walking the first two batters he faced to load the bases, but the left-hander bounced back.
Dempsey regained his control on the mound and struck out Easley right fielder Davis Morris with a hard fastball to end the inning and ultimately preserve a 2-1 win for Greenwood at Legion Field.
Coach Glenn Evans said a ten-day layoff between games might have affected his pitcher, but his confidence in Dempsey’s ability to finish the inning never wavered.
“He made the big pitch when we needed it,” Evans said. “That showed a lot of confidence in him, and he’s been really good. Against Anderson the other night, he struck out seven of nine batters. That layoff, I think, had something to do with the control problems there. I think just getting back on the mound will help him even more with his control.”
Dempsey held Easley scoreless in the seventh and recorded two strikeouts. Dempsey replaced starter Preston Evans, who maneuvered his way out of trouble for most of the night. Evans pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowed seven hits, hit one batter and struck out five.
“I thought he was real gutty tonight,” Coach Evans said of his right-hander. “He made the pitches when he needed to. I thought he was real gritty. He has good command of his three pitches, and I think his command was a little bit off because of the layoff, but he gutted it out and pitched well. Sometimes that’s better than having good stuff.”
Preston said that when he was replaced by Dempsey, he expected him to end the Easley offensive threat.
“I knew he was going to do it,” Preston said. “I played with him for a few years at Greenwood High School. He’s a good ballplayer. I knew he was going to come in and do his job and fill it up, so I wasn’t really worried about that.”
The Post 20 offense backed its pitchers with a solo home run from Zach Overholt in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly from Trey Taylor that scored Logan Bruce in the fifth. Overholt also smashed a triple to right-center field in the first to provide the only two hits on the night for Greenwood.
“Whether it’s 2-1 or 12-1, it’s still a win,” Coach Evans said. “Like I told the boys, I won’t ever complain about a win. I thought we swung the bats well, we just hit it right at them. We only struck out twice on the night, so we were putting the ball in play. I think that’ll continue to get better as well as we keep playing more and more.”
The win marks the second victory in league play for Post 20, which hopes to use this game as a building block moving forward. Preston said he’s expecting a deep run for Greenwood in the American Legion this season.
“I think we’re going to have a shot to win it all this year,” he said. “We’ve got a good team with the best players around, so I feel like we’re all on the same page now. We’re just going to keep playing like we’ve been playing and get some wins.”