In the all-important playoff opener, Beaufort High coach Keith Riley turned to Wes Graves to shut down a dangerous lineup. On a Saturday afternoon at North Augusta, his pitcher delivered.
Graves put together a clutch six-inning performance on the mound, and the Eagles edged the Yellowjackets 2-1 on the road in the opening round of the SCHSL Class 4A District 4 tournament to set up a Region 7-4A duel with May River on Monday.
North Augusta landed the first blow in the contest, as Zach Hardy connected on a two-out single in the opening frame to take a 1-0 lead. But Graves stayed strong on the mound, stranding the bases loaded in both the first and second innings to keep the deficit at a single run.
The Eagles found their bats in the fourth to take control of the ballgame. Rush Riley got it all started with a leadoff triple, and the senior scored on a William Winburn single to even the game at 1. The visitors were far from finished, as Colin Peterson picked up the clutch two-out RBI single to score Winburn and take a 2-1 lead.
The Yellowjackets threatened in the sixth looking for the tying and go-ahead runs after a single, an error, and a walk put runners on the corners, but Graves hung tough to keep the lead intact, inducing a popup on his 104th pitch to escape the jam. Chase McKelvey did the rest, throwing a perfect seventh to finish off the victory and advance his Eagles in the winners bracket.
Graves came up huge to start the postseason run, allowing just one run on five hits with some clutch high-leverage pitching to pick up a well-earned win. Winburn was 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI, and Peterson knocked in the game winning run from the seven-spot in the lineup.
Beaufort High (13-8) will get ready for a Region 7-4A showdown on Monday as the Eagles welcome the May River Sharks with the winner advancing to the championship game of the double-elimination tournament. The two teams split the regular-season series back in March.
By Wes Kerr