Ninety minutes before his game started, Storm Harrelson was already bouncing around.
The Green Sea Floyds pitcher talked with some early arriving fans behind the backstop. Paced the dugout. Even asked his coach if he could finally get dressed so he could start the final steps of his pregame routine.
“That’s Storm. He’s energy,” Trojans coach Derek Martin said. “The guys behind him feed off that energy. He’s non-stop.”
Harrelson funneled all of that into a brilliant pitching performance, and now he and his teammates will be playing for the Class 1A state championship.
Green Sea Floyds defeated Branchville 1-0 in the lower state finals at home Wednesday, playing a type of baseball it hadn’t throughout what had otherwise been a high-scoring playoff run. In its first four postseason games, the team averaged 15.5 runs per contest, scoring at such a clip that three of their games were called early due to the mercy rule.
This one, though, was different.
Bubba Elliott’s leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning was the Trojans’ lone score of the night. After that, Green Sea Floyds only managed to get two baserunners to second base against Branchville ace and major college recruit Jacob Watkins, never really threatening to do much else.
It didn’t matter. For as good as Watkins was during his three-hitter, Harrelson was better — even if he didn’t expect it to be this good.
“We’ve been mashing the ball all playoffs,” Harrelson said. “They’ve been hitting the ball, too. I can’t believe they didn’t score.”
Branchville came into the lower state finals scoring more than 12 runs per game. Their lowest total prior to the Wednesday’s shutout was the 11-7 loss in the lower state second round against the Trojans.
Harrelson was just effective, giving up just four hits and none after the third inning, and efficient, staying just below the 110-pitch count single-game maximum. His only major trouble came in the top of the first, when the Yellow Jackets (23-3) loaded the bases on a pair of base hits and a walk. Branchville’s Lee Steedly lined out to center, ending the threat.
From there, the Trojans’ pitcher and the defense behind him took over.
He got the leadoff hitter out in every inning but one (and doubled off the one who reached base), and at one point retired 11 of 12 Yellow Jacket batters.
“He’s not going to throw 88-90 and strike people out. He’s going to get ground balls,” Martin said. “If we can catch the ball behind him, we’re pretty good with him on the mound.”
That defense was exceptional, not committing an error.
The total package means the Trojans (11-6) are heading back to the state finals for just the third time in school history and the first time since 1996. Not a single current player was born yet, and Martin was still nearly a decade away from his college playing career at Coastal Carolina.
The previous two trips to the best-of-three state finals ended short of the ultimate goal. This may just be the class to break through. After all, it’s been building for some time.
“Three or four years ago, we kind of saw what guys were coming up, middle school and some of the freshman,” Martin said. “We knew it could be a special class if it worked. They’ve worked to be here. This is not a fluke. They have worked.”
Now, Green Sea Floyds will spend the next few days before the start of the state finals on Saturday at upper state champion McBee attempting to draw to the focus that allowed it to earn the school’s state football title last fall. Fans in attendance Wednesday were donning several versions of the championship gear, and some of the blinged out jewelry from that run was being passed around to see how it would look on the fingers of those who weren’t even a part of Donnie Kiefer’s team.
After beating Branchville, the school’s quarterback was ready to add another to his collection.
“It feels great,” Elliott said. “I want to get another ring.”