It's been almost a month since the Lugoff-Elgin Demons won South Carolina's 3A State Baseball Championship. A remarkable run by a group led by nine seniors. Here's some post season thoughts as seen from high atop Optimist Field in the press box.
-- All State player, Forrest Koumas had the game of a lifetime in game 3 of the championship series. He hit a two run bomb that turned out to be the game winning runs and recorded 13 strikeouts, which included the game's final out, from the mound pitching a complete game. After the celebratory dog pile, Koumas found the ball that he threw that final pitch and promptly stuffed it in his back pocket.
-- After winning the state championship, the Demons were escorted back to Lugoff courtesy of the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office. A second deputy assisted by meeting them on I-20 at White Pond Road to help lead them back to Optimist Field. that just so happened to be the place of an impromptu celebration as the team was met by family and friends. With a cd playing over the p.a. system to music the Demons selected and played during the post season batting practice and pre game warm ups, the party continued.
-- What a senior year for Steven Bonaparte. He was an integeral part of Lugoff-Elgin's State Wrestling Championship earlier in the year and the starting right fielder for the Demon baseball squad. As it stands, he is the only LE athlete to capture two team state championships in the same academic year.
-- Lou's Loonies - You gotta give up for Lou Lynch who is a big supporter of Demon Baseball. If you came to a game at Optimist Field sometime during the season, you saw Lou's truck parked across from right field on the Pepperidge side of highway 1. That was Lou's favorite spot to Lugoff-Elgin. During the post season, Lou's Loonies grew as more people wanted a prime spot. During game 2 of the championship series, there were 14 cars joining Lou across the road. There was even a rec league girls softball team who were perced on the brick Pepperidge sign that came to cheer on the Demons.
-- Speaking of game 2, there was an electric atmosphere at Optimist Field. Throughout the day, as game time drew closer, you could feel the excitement build throughout the community. As school was dismissing for the day, the High School League and Play On Sports were at Optimist Field installing tv cameras so the game could be taped and rebroadcast on the internet at www.schsl.tv. There were nearly 1500 people in attendance for that game. They shoehorned themselves into every nook and cranny at Optimist Field. If they couldn't find a spot with Lou across the road in right field, they stood on the back of their truck's toolboxes in the parking lot behind the third base dugout.
-- Game 3 was played at Gilbert High School in Lexington County. Demon fans came early and stayed late. LE supporters seemed to outnumber South Aiken fans three to one. The team recognized the huge support as there was a much louder cheer when LE was announced compared to South Aiken.
-- Several things led to the Demons becoming state champions this year. One of them was strong pitching during the post season. Nick Mincey went 5-0 in the tournament. The only game that a relief pitcher came in was during the upper state championship round with J. L. Mann. Will Dorton was relieved by Nick Mincey who would shut down the Patriots in the final two innings, which allowed for the dramatic 7th inning come from behind victory. Forrest Koumas pitched complete games against South Aiken in game 1 and 3 of the state championship round while Mincey went the distance in game 2.
-- I heard a tv broadcaster mention over the weekend that pitching and strong defense wins you championships. The same could be said with LE's defense. Blake Outlaw continued to distinguish himself as an outstanding outfielder. He made a catch of a fly ball that was thought to be destined for a spot over the centerfield fence at Riverside. Outlaw chased it down and caught it as the fence was in his face. He ran into the fence with the ball safely in his glove. During game 3 of the championship round, he started off the final inning with another amazing catch. South Aiken's leadoff hitter sent a solid hit to centerfield. Outlaw was playing deep and had to come in on the fly ball. The ball appeared to continue to drop faster than everyone thought would. At the last second, the junior dove and fully laid out and the ball found his outstretched glove hand for the first out. That pumped up the Demon faithful as well as Koumas as the ace finished the game with two strikeouts to secure the championship trophey would be coming home to West Wateree. While Outlaw amazed spectators, shortstop Jacob Murphey, second baseman Ty Robinson and outfielder/third baseman E. J. Ruiz just continued to make plays and record outs.
-- Special thanks go out to Lugoff-Elgin seniors, Briana Lotan and Bryce Proctor for singing the National Anthem during the post season. Briana did it during the the upper state rounds, while Bryce did it during game two and three of the state championship rounds. They both did an outstanding job and I think it really added something to the entire atmosphere of having someone perform it live during the pre game.
-- If you've seen the post game trophey pictures from various sources, you've seen the image of the ice cream sticks being held up by the trophey. The story behind that started with JV coach, Craig Smith. Coach Smith took the team aside at the end of practice one day. He held an ice cream stick and broke one. Then broke another. As he continued to break one stick at a time, he asked the team how strong was the one stick. The answer, of course, was not very strong at all. He had a stack of 20 sticks with a rubber band around and asked the guys if they could break them. As it was passed, the team quickly realized the 20 sticks together couldn't be broken. Coach Smith explained to them that as individuals the could be broken. If they stayed strong as a group and stuck together that there was no way they could be broken. As the season progressed, each player took the responsibility of bringing the sticks to practices and games. That is why during some of the post championship game pictures the trophey is held up with each player reaching for it along with the sticks in the background
-- Finally, the team held their post season supper at Green Hill Golf Course. Head Coach Randy Stokes spoke to his team for the final time. A nice touch by parents and the ABLE Club was giving each member of the coaching staff a picture of "the moment." Lynne Robinson explained that in each championship season there is "the moment." "The moment" for us was when the team surrounded the championship trophey at home plate with their fingers raised in a number 1 salute for the first time. What made the picture even more special is that each member of the team autographed the white border surrounding the photo.
Pre season workouts began in December, 2009. The season started in February 2010. Countless hours of hard work was put in during practice. All of that for a lifetime of memories from one incredible journey. Thanks for the ride Demons....thanks for the ride.