UNION — The USC Union Bantams club baseball team played in four games over the weekend to gain experience and test their skills for the spring season.
In the Bantams’ first taste of competitive play, the team shut out the Palmetto Predators 18-and-under travel baseball team Saturday morning at Timken Sports Complex, winning 7-0.
Following that game, the Bantams defeated TBA (Trad Bruce & Associates) Lightning — a team of players from Union, Spartanburg and Cherokee counties coached by Russell Williford and Craig King — with a score of 11-6.
On Sunday, the Bantams headed back out to the Timken Sports Complex for two games against American Legion Post 82. In the first game, the Bantams won 10-6, but they suffered a loss to Post 82 in the second game with a final score of 3-0. Bantams Coach Paul Wilkes said the bases were loaded with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but the team just couldn’t drive the runs in.
Wilkes said the four games gave all 26 players on the Bantams roster an opportunity to play.
“I was trying to gauge our talents and skills, see what they could do and see what their roles would be on this team,” Wilkes said. “I plan to play more this fall to prepare for the NCBA (National Club Baseball Association) spring season.”
Wilkes said each of the 12 pitchers on the team was given the opportunity to pitch at least one inning.
“They all threw well, and I’m proud of all of them,” Wilkes said. “We have a long fall and spring season ahead, and we’re going to need every arm on the team to be ready and available.”
Wilkes mentioned four pitchers who stood out over the weekend and will most likely be in the starting rotation come spring — Seth Osbourne, Taylor Sims, Matt Bostic and Kevin Holland.
Wilkes said Osbourne throws strikes and mixes up his pitches well, letting his defense work behind him.
“He places the ball well,” Wilkes said. “He’s not an overpowering strikeout pitcher, but he keeps batters off balance.”
As for Sims, Bostic and Holland, Wilkes said all three throw 85-90 mph.
“Bostic can be inconsistent throwing strikes, but when he’s on, he’s on,” Wilkes said. “When he’s throwing strikes, he’s almost unhittable, but he has to work on consistency on the mound.”
As for the top batters over the weekend, Wilkes mentioned Joe Beatty, Donte Stewart, David Henderson, Alec Acevedo, Jarrod Cheek, Kevin Holland and Taylor Sims, saying they all hit the ball well.
Where fielding is concerned, Wilkes said Taylor Sims made an outstanding diving catch against Post 82. He also said Thomas Miller had a great catch in left field against TBA Lightning.
“The ball was hit to the fence, and he got a little turned around tracking the ball,” Wilkes said. “But he made up ground and caught up to it on the warning track.”
Wilkes gave part of the credit to the communication skills of center fielder Joe Beatty who guided Miller, letting him know exactly where he was on the field.
“Beatty allowed Miller to concentrate on the ball rather than whether or not he was going to run into the fence,” Wilkes said.
Not only did this weekend mark the Bantams’ first experience playing together as a team, but it was only the second time they had even been on the field as a team. They had one practice on the field, and the rest of the practices were moved to indoor batting cages because of rain.
“There hasn’t been a lot of work on situations such as bunt coverage or hitting cutoff from the outfield,” Wilkes said. “There are other fundamentals to fine tune, and we have plenty of time to correct them. It’s just a matter of putting time in on the field and putting it to work.”
The Bantams will play two games this Sunday at Erskine College. First, they will play the Carolina Combat — an 18-year-old travel team from Columbia — at 1 p.m. Following that game, they will play Spikes Select — a travel team from Greenwood.