Title is eleventh for Scott McLeod and company, 51st for school’s athletic program
Chapin, SC (James Bowers) - The standing room only crowd at the “Eagle’s Nest” in Chapin made it hard to get a decent view of the action during Wednesday’s AAAA Baseball State Championship Game between the home Eagles and the identically nicknamed squad from Airport. Supporters of both squads came out in sizable numbers for the all-Lexington County matchup. When Chapin pitcher William Privette got the final out in the top of the seventh, even those with poor vantage points knew what had occurred upon hearing the roar of the home crowd. Chapin had defeated Airport by a 2-1 verdict to win state championship Number 11.
The game was a largely defensive affair, with all runs coming due to errors. The home Eagles got on the board first in the top of the fourth when an error by Airport outfielder Justin Allen allowed Nick Price to score and hitter Kareem Bowers to advance to second. Chapin made it a 2-0 ball game later in the inning when a Tanner Steffy line drive sent Bowers home.
Airport answered in the top of the fifth when Cam Beckham scored on a Sam Lafrage single. Chapin managed to get out of that inning, but fans grew nervous when the home Eagles failed to produce any runs in their side of that inning. They were able to breathe a little easier when the visiting Eagles were unable to score in the sixth, and though Chapin was also not able to score in the sixth, the fans remained confident that William Privette and his defensive teammates would finish the job going into the seventh.
Their feelings were validated.
First, Cam Beckham grounded out on a 1-1 pitch. Then,Dalton Mims hit a fly ball that Nick Priced grabbed for out number two. Airport’s last batter Parker Whittle must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders as he stepped up to the plate. He was hoping he could be the hero, get something going for his squad when they were trailing with two outs in the final inning. Instead, he struck out swinging.
The Chapin Eagles enthusiastically cleared their dugout in celebration of their 2-1 victory which netted the eleventh state title in the history of the CHS diamond program. It will be the final AAAA state championship for skipper McCleod and company, the Eagles make the move to Class AAAAA next season. To SC Prep Baseball enthusiasts, seeing The Chapin Eagles in the same region as the likes of Lexington and White Knoll will be an exhilarating experience.
The Chapin Eagles finished their championship year with a record of 28-6. The mark was good for the AAAA Region V title. The Eagles cruised through the district and lower state playoffs to set-up the intra-county showdown for the state championship. In addition to their team accomplishments, individual honors for Chapin’s sluggers included a 4A all-state nod for Cade Austin, the distinction of player of the year in the conference for Tanner Steffy, and Scott McCleod’s selection as coach of the year. The title is one of many in the decades-long tenure of the Chapin skipper who overcame a kidney transplant prior to the season. The combination of his recovery and the birth of a grandchild made this title especially gratifying for McCleod.
Airport finished the year with an impressive mark of 26-7. The squad from Cayce picked up its second consecutive Region 4-4A title, continuing a renaissance for the program that has been ongoing since coach Tim Perry came aboard the program in 2012. The team won a lower state title in 2013 and the District Six championship in 2016. For 2019, the Eagles will remain a AAAA team, joining a region with arch-rival Brookland-Cayce, Aiken, and South Aiken among others.