WHS falls to Flora

BLYTHEWOOD – Losing not only a head coach but 13 seniors from last year, the Westwood baseball team may look at itself as starting anew.

First-year head coach Nathan Caldwell acknowledged the team’s youth after an 11-0 loss in six innings to Region 5-4A rival A.C. Flora Tuesday night, but also noted his team’s upside.

“With three returners, we had to really hit it hard in October, to try to get things cleaned up and dressed up,” Caldwell said. “For this game, it was a pretty good game going into the fifth inning, but a couple of blunders enabled them to put up a couple of crooked numbers in the fifth and the sixth.”

A.C. Flora (4-6) got a run on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the third, but sent eight batters to the plate in the fifth and got five runs on four hits and two Westwood errors to take a 6-0 lead.

In the sixth inning, with Remy Gilbert on the mound in relief of Redhawks starter Kendell Gandy, the Falcons sent 10 batters up and came back with five runs on five hits and three Westwood errors to make it 11-0.

A.C. Flora closer Rob Harrington took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and put the Redhawks down in order to finish the game on the 10-run mercy rule.

Before that, Falcons starting pitcher Grant Loggins frustrated the Redhawks through six innings of one-hit ball. Westwood’s Xavier DeJesus led off the bottom of the first inning with a single to centerfield—and that was the last of the Redhawks’ offense.

Loggins struck out 10 in his five innings of work. He struck out eight straight batters, fanning the side in the second and third innings.

The Falcons are also on the midst of a youth movement, having lost seven starters from their 4-5A region championship season last year. Head coach Andy Hallett said he knew they were going to be young in the field, but old on the mound.

“Grant’s really special. He’s a three-pitch guy,” Flora head coach Andy Hallett said. “But he has two breaking balls, a changeup and a fastball, and he just pounds the strike zone. He doesn’t get into bad counts, he makes you swing the bat.”

For Caldwell, a Brookland-Cayce High School graduate, Westwood looks to be a proving ground. He was a four-year baseball starter for Benedict College and later an assistant coach with the Tigers. Before taking the Westwood job he coached travel ball with Hit Factory Baseball Academy and coached at high schools in Florida before moving back to South Carolina to be an assistant at Ridge View.

Caldwell looks to build Westwood into a competitive team through a challenging first season and in the workup to the next season. Westwood’s 18-3 win in four innings over Lee Central Friday night showed the team is capable of stringing hits together and taking advantage of other team’s mistakes.

Lopsided games like Tuesday’s may happen, but each one will go to developing the players.

“It’s OK, we’re going to learn from it,” Caldwell said. “This team has really grown for us to have graduated 13.”

Westwood travels to A.C. Flora today.

Lee Central – 0-0-0-3-X-X-X – 3, 4, 5

Westwood – 5-4-5-4-X-X-X – 18, 14, 5

WP: Xavier Johnson

LC: J Davis 2-3, RBI. W: Brandon Grindstaff 4-4, HR (2), 6 RBI. Conner Brown 3-4, 2 RBI. Austin Jeffcoat 2-3, 2B, 4 RBI. Nathan Caldwell 2-4, 2B.

A.C. Flora – 0-0-1-0-5-5 – 11, 13, 1

Westwood – 0-0-0-0-0-0 – 0, 1, 5

WP: Grant Loggins

ACF: Zach Snead 3-3, 2B. Evan Smith 3-4, Chapman West 2-3, 2B. Cooper Revels 2-4, 2RBI. Tyler Hernandez 2RBI. Grant Loggins 2RBI.

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