Jackets knocked out of playoffs, turn to next year

North Augusta High School’s varsity baseball team was facing an uphill battle in the playoffs, and its first two opponents proved too much to overcome.

The Jackets (9-14) first faced a dangerous opponent in West Florence. The Knights had not lost at home all year and had their ace, Akeem Bostick, on the mound.

North Augusta’s Jake Nelson was able to match Bostick through the first four innings, when the game was tied 1-1. West Florence broke the game open in the fifth, however, scoring three runs. The Knights would tack on another in the sixth to win 5-1.

Zach Jarvis notched the only North Augusta RBI of the game, knocking in Zach Wilson in the fourth. Bostick threw a complete game for the Knights, striking out 11 and walking five. He also had a solo home run to help his own cause.

One of West Florence’s top players, Garrett Chapman, came up through the North Augusta Little League program. Chapman is hitting .507 on the year and had a double in the game.

“His family moved back to West Florence, where his father and mother are originally from,” said Vic Radcliff, North Augusta head coach. “He’s turned out to be a heck of a ballplayer in both football and baseball. He’s signed to go to Georgia Southern to play baseball. Good kid, works hard, and I had the chance to talk to his dad while I was down there. They’re real proud of him.”

As far as how his team approached the much-heralded Bostick, who sat in the high-80s to low-90s for most of the game, Radcliff felt his hitters were undisciplined.

“We had our opportunities to score some runs, but we didn’t take care of our business,” he said. “We didn’t get the hits when we needed them.”

In an elimination game against Wando on Saturday, the Jackets were matched up with a traditional power who, like themselves, had a down year by their own expectations. Wando ended up winning the game, 5-2, and ending North Augusta’s season.

“In the first inning we had bases loaded, no outs, and we ended up getting no runs,” Radcliff said. “I felt like that was big, because I think if we had driven the nail there we could have set a precedent of what we’re about. We didn’t do anything and our pitching wasn’t sharp.”

Radcliff credited three seniors for their leadership throughout the year third baseman Russell Scaggs, first baseman JoJo Higgenbottom and Nelson.

“I want to commend them for doing things and trying to lead,” he said.

Going into next year Radcliff is going to change things up a bit. After a disappointing year, he hopes to take advantage of opportunities during the summer to build team unity and confidence.

“I see some fight in the young kids and I took the chance to talk to them on the way back on the bus,” Radcliff said. “I told them to be prepared because this summer there’s going to be some work. I told them to get familiar with my face, because they’re going to see me a lot. With the juniors that are coming back only Trib (Reece) and Dre (Dunbar) play football. The rest of them don’t, so we’re going to work and we’re going to be serious.

“During the month of June, when we play in those tournaments, things are a bit relaxed and easy. I told them that’s going to change, we’re going to expect their work ethic and preparation to reach our higher demands. I expect them to be there 90 percent of the time. No more excuses.”

Scott Rodgers is a reporter at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.