FLORENCE | For the first time in school history, the North Myrtle Beach Chiefs are heading to the state baseball finals.
On Friday evening, head coach Brian Alderson’s team showed why many were optimistic about the program’s chances to make a run in 2023. The Chiefs were dominant at South Florence in the second game of the lower state finals, winning 9-4 and punching their ticket to next week’s 4A state championship series.
Considering the season the Chiefs have put together, it wasn’t particularly surprising that they locked up the lower state crown in controlling fashion on Friday. The game stayed fairly one-sided, as North Myrtle Beach jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the second inning and never looked back.
“It feels awesome. North Myrtle Beach baseball has never been in this situation before,” Alderson said after the game. “We’re playing for a state title, something we’ve never done here. I told the team in the huddle that they’ve earned every minute of this… these kids have flat-out earned it with their hard work.”
Things started early for the Chiefs in the top of the first inning. First baseman Luke Roupe hit an opposite-field home run to right field to open up the scoring against Bruins starter Dylan Wiegel.
As was North Myrtle Beach’s hope entering the game, Wiegel’s start did not last much longer.
In the second inning, the Chiefs exploded for five runs, a rally that was highlighted by Chance Hall’s two-out, three-RBI double. The big inning forced Wiegel out of the game after just 1.2 innings of work, a quick chase that boded well for Alderson’s team.
“We’ve been through this whole postseason and our bats have been quiet just about the entire time,” Alderson said. “We’ve been able to pitch and play defense, and that’s what has gotten us here. It was really exciting to see the bats come alive tonight.”
South Florence scattered several runs across the middle and late innings, but no rally came close to threatening the Chiefs' lead. Allen McCormick and C.J. Oxendine both chipped in with RBIs to extend the North Myrtle Beach lead and solidify the win.
Roupe, a sophomore, said the team felt the historic nature of the win.
“This is an honor,” Roupe said after the team broke its celebratory huddle. “As a sophomore, this is crazy. I’ve never been here before and the school has never been here before. We’re going to go out, try to win this and do our best to keep it going.”
Alderson understood the significance of North Myrtle Beach’s victory, which is why he described himself as speechless as he looked at the final scoreboard.
Defeating South Florence was a moment he won’t soon forget, and he considers this year’s success to be a byproduct of the work put in by his previous classes.
“This is huge. I credit all the players that have come through here for the last nine years since I got here,” Alderson said. “They laid the foundation as far as work ethic and being committed. They have grit and determination that’s been built over these years.”
Next week’s 4A state finals series will begin on Monday. That game will be on the road against Catawba Ridge.
The second game of the series is set for Wednesday at North Myrtle Beach. If a third game is needed, it will be played on Saturday at a neutral site.
Also of note — with Aynor softball’s Friday night win that clinched its place in the 3A state finals, this year marks the second time ever that an Horry County softball and baseball program have both reached the state finals in the same year. It happened in 2001, when Loris baseball and Green Sea Floyds softball both made the state finals.
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