EASLEY—The game plan, was simple —- be aggressive and put pressure on the opposition.
The Easley-based host team jumped on previously unbeaten Indiana and its ace, Will Coursen-Carr for three runs in the first inning and a total of six runs by the end of the third on its way to a 6-2 victory in the semi-final round of the Big League World Series Tuesday night at the JB “Red” Owens Recreation Complex.
The team, representing SC District 1, will face unbeaten Puerto Rico (5-0) in the championship game at 8 p.m. Wedensday. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
“We started to put some pressure on him (Coursen-Carr) early,” said Easley Manager Gregg Powell. ‘We were able to get people on base and agitate him a little bit.”
The win came six days after Easley opened the series with a 1-0 loss to Indiana, the host team’s only loss of the tournament. Coursen-Carr, who was Mr. Baseball in Indiana this year, pitched a two-hit shutout in that game and struck out 10.
“It was a great win for us,” said Easley center fielder Justin Allen. “It was big revenge on that lefty (Coursen-Carr).”
Allen started the pressure against Coursen-Carr, who was clocked on a radar gun in the first inning throwing pitches that reached 91 miles per hour. Allen led off with a strikeout, but the Indiana catcher, dropped the ball, and Allen started running to first. Instead of throwing Allen out at first, the catcher threw to the third baseman as if the ball had not hit the ground. The umpire ruled Allen safe at first.
“I swung at the ball and it hit the dirt, so I started running to first,” said Allen. “I thought I heard the umpire say I was out. I expected the catcher to throw to first.”
After Allen got on base, Tanner Lollis then drew a walk, giving Easley two runners on and no outs. Three batters later, Wil Hartsell singled home Allen and Lollis to give the SC District 1 team a 2-0 lead. Hartsell scored on a single by Beau Strickland and Easley suddenly had a 3-0 lead in the first.
After starting pitcher Trey Hayes held Indiana scoreless in the second, Will Porter led off the second inning for Easley with a single to left field. Porter stole second and then reached third on a groundout to the first baseman by Max McDougald. After Allen walked and stole second, Lollis reached base on an infield hit, scoring Porter and giving the host team a 4-0 lead.
Easley scored two runs in the bottom of the third to take a 6-0 advantage. Coursen-Carr walked Hartsell and Strickland to lead off the inning. Tucker Burgess struck out and then Strickland was picked off at first by the Indiana catcher. McDougald singled to load the bases. Allen reached base on an Indiana error, scoring Hartsell and Porter to give the host team a 6-0 advantage.
Matt Kaplanis, who had pitched a one-hit shutout against Florida, came in to pitch in the fourth for Indiana and held the host team scoreless in an inning for the first time in a game. Kaplanis held Easley to one hit in the last three innings.
Indiana, the Central Region champion, got five of its eight hits off Hayes in a two-run sixth inning. Weber got on base on a fielder’s choice and scored on a single by Steve Remesnik to cut the Easley lead to 6-1. Kaplanis singled and Brian Urschel came in for him as a pinch runner. Urschel later scored on a single by Andre Jernigan to the deficit to 6-2.
The host team failed to get a baserunner in the bottom of the sixth. Hayes got the first two batters in the seventh and then gave up a hit to Weber before getting Kaplanis out to end the game.
Powell praised the performance of Hayes which pitched a complete game to earn the win for the host team.
“We have mostly used Trey as a reliever, but he started some at Palmetto (High School),” said Powell. “He pitched a great game.
Hayes said the key to his success was getting pitches where he wanted them.
“All three of my pitches were working tonight,” said Hayes, adding that Tuesday’s game was one of this best performances.
Powell said the team has improved with each game.
“We, as a team have gotten better as we have gone through the tournament,” he said. “Our confidence has picked up.”
Powell has managed four previous Easley teams who have reached the championship game —- 2003, 2004. 2005 and 2007. All of those teams won the Big League World Series.
“It is a wonderful feeling to be making our fifth trip to the championship game,” said Powell.