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St. James' Nick Smith steals a base in the 11-2 win over Lexington on Tuesday in the Class 5A playoffs. The Sharks will play Ashley Ridge at home on Thursday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

In any other game, St. James coach Robbie Centracchio may have been pleased with his team’s offensive production.

The Sharks baseball team dropped three early runs and then added three more in the fourth inning and one more in the final at-bat of their lower state opener against Summerville. The problem, of course, being that the Green Wave blew the game wide open before the first out was recorded.

Spurred by a 10-run first inning, Summerville dropped St. James to the elimination rounds of the Class 5A Lower State tournament with a 12-7 victory on Thursday night.

“There weren’t a lot of hard hit balls,” Centracchio said. “There were a lot of well-place balls with some terrible approaches to defense. You hate to see it happen in a game of this magnitude. But it happens.”

Centracchio would know.

After all, it was just a year ago that St. James went on the road to Lugoff-Elgin in the opening round of the Class 4A lower state tournament and had a similar first inning en route to an 11-6 win.

This time around, the tables were turned, and the Sharks were left feeling the sting of a nightmare first 28 minutes of the game.

The first two Summerville batters reached base on infield singles. That was followed up by a walk, and then another single that scored the first run of the game.

Then it was another single that was misplayed by St. James leftfielder Tanner Johnstone that scored a couple more. Two more singles after, and then a two-error play that plated more, and another error immediately after that on the next batter.

The 10th batter of the inning, the Green Wave’s leadoff hitter (Cole Messina) popped out to second base for the first out of night before Brady Hopkins’ two-run double continued the onslaught.

All told, each of the first nine Summerville batters not only reached base, they scored. And by the time the opening half frame was done, coach Bo Charpia’s team held that double-digit lead.

“You don’t start bunting when you’re that hot,” Charpia said of his team’s aggressiveness. “We hit the ball well against Chapin [in the district tournament], but we’ve never had a first inning like that. … Our arms, we don’t have much depth, so we had to maximize every pitch we get from whomever’s on the bump.”

St. James got RBI base hits from Caleb Bondi, Ethan Salak and Nikko Andre in the fourth to make it an 11-6 game. However, that was as close as the Sharks would manage to make the score. The reason wasn’t as simple as the 10-run Green Wave first.

St. James missed as many opportunities as it took advantage of.

All told, the Sharks left 11 runners on base and six in scoring position. That included seven total base runners combined in the second, third and fourth innings.

“We just didn’t get the big hit with the runners on that would have given us the change to get right back in it,” Centracchio said.

St. James will be at home for at least one more game this season, as it will play host to Dutch Fork on Saturday. Lose there, and the season will come to an end.

Win, and the Sharks will advance to another elimination game on the road Monday against either Dutch Fork or Summerville. That would be the absolute earliest that ace Ethan Salak could take the mound because of the statewide pitch-count rules.

Centracchio wasn’t ready to think ahead.

“We’ll start with Saturday,” Centracchio said. “We came out and played good baseball for six-and-a-half innings. We just have to do it for seven and hope for a better outcome.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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