The bats have been packed away. The foul lines are slowly fading at Optimist Field, but the memories have been made. When you drive by Optimist Field and listen carefully, you can still hear the cheers eminating as coach Randy Stokes troops completed a run in the South Carolina 3A baseball playoffs and claimed the State Championship at Glibert High School over Lower State Champions, the South Aiken Thoroughbreds, two games to one.
The Demons started off with a loss to Airport but then reeled off 12 straight wins before losing to eventual region champ, Chapin. In that game at Optimist Field, the Eagles jumped on LE early and never looked back, eventualy inning 13-2. While you never really like to lose a game, the loss may have been a good thing for Lugoff-Elgin. The Demons were pretty much cruising through the conference schedule but it showed them their vulnerabilities in which they were able to tweak and work out during the playoff run.
If you look back at the moment that got LE kick started, it was back on Friday, April 23 at rival A. C. Flora. That game resembed a playoff atmosphere as LE went into extra innings and beat the Falcons, 8-5. Will Dorton came into his own in that game as he came in relief of 3A State Player Of The Year, Forrest Koumas.
Finishing second in our region actually worked to the Demons advantage as the playoff seeding gave LE a little better bracket. Chapin would be matched with last year's defending state champ and a team ranked in the top five all year, Belton-Honea-Path. The Demons would host Clinton where Lugoff-Elgin handed the Red Devils a 12-2 loss. The win woud send LE to a play a team that historically been a thorn in their side, the Riverside Warriors.
Several heroes emerged from the game with Riverside. With the scored tied at one in the sixth inning, senior Nick "The Big Cat" Mincey would send a two run bomb over the fence to put the Demons up, 3-1. That score would hold up as Forrest Koumas would get the win on the mound. Junior Blake Outlaw robbed the Warriors of a potential home run as he tracked down a fly ball and ran full speed into the outfield fence for an out. That win would set up another matchup with the Warriors at Optimist Field.
Nick Mincey would get the ball and pitch that game. He pitched a great game for LE. Mincey had a no hitter through 6 1/3 innings when Forrest Koumas would come in a relief mode and strike out the final two batters to preserve the no hitter and the 2-0 win. That win would send LE into the Upper State Championship round.
Greenville would come to town on that Saturday night and send the Red Raiders home unhappy as LE would win, 8-3. The Demons would then go the very hostile atmosphere at J. L. Mann. Left fielder, E. J. Ruiz had to dodge hot dogs and baseballs thrown at him by Mann's "Left Field Loonies." The Demons would return from the upstate victorious, 10-6. This would put LE in the driver's seat for the Upper State Championship. Mann would beat Chapin and the Patriots would have to come to West Wateree and beat LE twice at Optmist Field to advance.
LE would committ three early game errors and Mann would enjoy a three run lead in the fourth inning. The Demons would continue to battle back and head into their half of the seventh inning down by two, 6-4. With one run plated by LE, they had the bases loaded with only one out, Blake Outlaw would send a base hit up the middle. Stephen Bonaparte would tie the score and Jacob Murphey would race in from second base for the winning run. The wild come from behind victory would send a bull rush from the Demons dugout and a dogpile between the pitchers mound and second base as LE would head to the State Championship round.
Their opponent would be South Aiken in the best of three game matchup. Game one would have the Demons pack the bus and head west to Aiken. A couple of first inning errors would allow the homestanding Thorougbreds a 2-0 lead. Another late game run would put them up by three going into the seventh inning. The Demons have never given up the entire year and began to mount another comeback. One run was plated and Chase Duncan would be racing home as he dodged the T-Bred catcher's tag. Despite that, the home plate umpire called Duncan out as he thought the catcher tagged him, however, it was with an empty hand and not the ball. That was just one call in the game that had Demon fans and coaches questioning umpires calls. Instead of having a runner on second with only one out and down by one, it set up a favorable ending for South Aiken.
On a warm Wednesday night, Optimist Field would host an electric atmosphere for game 2. With nearly 1500 fans in attendance, (not including those standing on truck tool boxes in the parking lot or across highway 1 in front of Pepperidge subdivision), Lugoff-Elgin would play their game and win 8-1 to set up a deciding game three.
The deciding game three would be played at Gilbert High School. The Demon faithful would show up early and make Gilbert, "Optimist Field West" as LE would outnumber SA fans by about 3-1. Another great pitchers duel between two Unversity of South Carolina Gamecock committments in SA's lefty, Andrew Faulkner and LE's flame thrower, Forrest Koumas.
LE would strike first in the home half of the second with a Nick Mincey solo bomb to left field to put the Demons up, 1-0. South Aiken would get a run in their half of the sixth. Head Coach Randy Stokes had talked about dealing with adversity all season long for LE and what would follow would be another paragraph in that chapter. Forrest Koumas would help his own cause in the bottom of the sixth with a home run over the centerfield fence to put the good guys up 3-1. In the top half of the seventh, South Aiken would give the Demons a scare. A fly ball by the lead off hitter appeared to be going deep. LE centerfielder, Blake Outlaw would quickly see that the ball would be dropping and while running wide open and diving, fully extending his body, he would make the grab for the first out of the inning. A catch worthy of anyone's top 10 web gems at any level. Koumas, still on the mound, would dig deep and get the last two outs himself with strikeouts, which gave him 13 K's on the night. Once that final strike was recorded, the Demons dugout would empty and the post game party got started with a dogpile at the mound. The championship would be LE's third in school history as they won in consecutive years back in 1992 and 1993.
Lugoff-Elgin would finish the season 27-5 and would hoist the championship trophey. 2010 is known as the Chinese year of the Tiger, but in South Carolina for 3A baseball....it will forever be known as the year of the Demons.
-- Forrest Koumas would always wear garnet socks and Blake Outlaw would always wear green socks.
-- When I asked coach Randy Stokes if he wanted the entire roste of each team annoced prior to game 2, he said he didn't. Stokes wanted to go with just the starters because we had done that the whole year.
-- After every win at Optimist Field, I would leave the final games numbers on the scoreboard til the next game. With the Chapin loss at home, I cleared it out.
Diamonds In The Rough
-- Nick Mincey would be 5-0 as a starting pitcher in the playoffs.
-- Blake Outlaw had the hot bat for LE as he hit over .500 in the championship series.
-- The Demons would go 8-1 in the playoffs. The only loss was in the championship round at South Aiken, 3-1.
-- Forrest Koumas was named 3A player of the year and named to South Carolina's All State team and will play in the all star game vs. North Carolina's all stars at Myrtle Beach.
-- Stephen Bonaparte has been selected to play in the North-South All Star team.
-- Out of the North-South all star rosters, the North squad boasts 7 out of 16 players either on an LE roster or opponent's rosters this year. The South squad has 5 of 16 players that were on opposing rosters this season.