Walker’s Grand Slam Lifts Griffins to First Playoff Win

It took 27 years, some clawing, some scratching, some digging and a dramatic bases-clearing shot to get there, but Thursday night the Fairfield Central Griffins baseball squad earned their first postseason victory in school history, overcoming an early 4-0 deficit in Pageland to shock the Central Eagles 9-6 in game one of the Class 2A playoffs.

“What can you say about these kids?” an emotional head coach Scotty Dean said after the game. “They battled. Compton (Walker, starting pitcher) wasn’t his best, but he battled through.”

While Walker battled on the mound, his signature moment came at the plate. Going into the top of the fourth the Griffins were down 4-1, but began chipping away at Central starter Joseph Rollings. A two-out bases-loaded RBI single by Javarius Cook cut the lead to 4-2 and a four-pitch walk by Brandon Adams made it a one-run game. With the bags still juiced, Walker stepped to the plate. He took the first pitch for ball one, then stepped out of the box to confer with his skipper.

“I told him, ‘If you want to be the guy, you got to hit this ball’,” Dean said after the game.

Walker hit it, all right. And it stayed hit.

Walker blistered a fastball to the deepest part of the park, up and over the center field fence for a game-changing grand slam. With the Griffins now up 7-4, Walker went back to the mound to protect the lead. The Eagles threatened in the bottom half, but their rally was put down when Nick Goins made a diving catch near the foul line in deep left to end the inning.

Walker worked six innings Thursday and into the seventh before being lifted for Stanley McManus. The junior right-hander threw 118 pitches, giving up six runs (four earned) on five hits and eight walks, while striking out three and hitting one batter. Walker appeared in control early, coasting through the first two Eagle batters, but then a single, a walk, a pair of stolen bases and a passed ball gave Central an early 1-0 lead. Three walks and a single in the second put the Eagles up 4-0.

Central’s Kelton Myers touched Walker for a leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth and Ryheem Lockhart scored on an error to make it a one-run game once more, 7-6 Fairfield. But the Griffins squelched the Eagles’ momentum in the seventh when Chris Boyd delivered an RBI double, scoring pinch runner Tyrell Hill. Boyd later came around on a throwing error by the Central catcher for the ninth and final Griffin run.

Walker gave up a single and hit a batter to start the final frame before giving way to McManus, who was seeing his first action in six weeks.

“He had a cast on his hand this morning,” Dean said of McManus.

The gutsy McManus struck out Rollings, got Myers to hit into a 5-3 put-out and forced Cody Hall to hit a grounder to Walker, who had moved to shortstop. Walker scooped up the ball and threw to Boyd at first to end the game.

The Griffins continue postseason play tonight, hosting Andrew Jackson at 6 p.m.