Micah Stancil knew this very well could be his final game as head coach of the Spartanburg Post 28 American Legion baseball team.
It certainly seemed likely to be his last at Duncan Park Stadium.
Spartanburg needed to win Thursday night to even up the best-of-five series against Fort Mill in the first round of the playoffs to force a decisive fifth game. But it didn’t happen. Post 28 lost a rain-delayed conclusion to its season, 10-5. Stancil, in his fifth year leading the Legion team, was recently named head coach at USC Union. He said after this game that he would not be back to coach the orange and black.
“This is it. This was my last season,” Stancil said. “Our guys knew. I told them before the game that it might be an emotional one for me.”
In some regards, it was a symbolic way for Stancil to go out. During the delay that lasted more than an hour and a half, he was out there sweeping away water and raking dirt to make sure the game could continue.
And then his team, down 4-0 when the game was paused in the top of the fourth inning, gave up four runs almost immediately upon continuation to fall behind, 8-0. On the verge of losing by mercy rule, Spartanburg put up a fight at the end and stayed alive at least long enough to avoid that and actually got back into a threatening position. Post 28 had lost the previous night, 4-3, on a two-run walk-off hit in the final inning.
Fort Mill advances to play Monday against League VI champion Gaffney, which swept Rock Hill in three games. The winner of that series goes to the four-team state championship tournament in Lexington.
“I honestly believe that our league is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, in the state,” Stancil said. “I feel like it is. Inman has been a regular at the state tournament and we beat them out. Look at how Gaffney beat up on Rock Hill."
Fort Mill had a 4-0 lead and man on second base when a sudden downpour on the edge of a thunderstorm brought everything to a half for an hour and 41 minutes. Upon resuming the game at 10:31 p.m., things got out of hand quickly. By the time the sixth batter stepped up for Post 43, there had been a hit, a wild pitch, a walk, a passed ball, an error, a triple, another walk and another error. Spartanburg had gone from four runs behind to eight runs behind.
There were numerous discussions between coaches and umpires throughout the delay, but Stancil said none of that was about postponing.
“You almost have to finish,” he said. “If this wasn’t postseason, if this isn’t the playoffs, then, yeah, we don’t wait. We go home. But then you are looking at playing the rest of the game Friday, maybe finishing the series on Saturday while Gaffney has been resting since Wednesday. So we had to get it in.”
Fort Mill scored two unearned runs in the sixth to take 10-2 lead. Tanner McCallister, who had been walked three straight times, hit his third homer of the series and seventh of the season to make it 10-4.
“He’d done a tremendous job,” Stancil said. “That’s getting it done with the bat.”
Lee Cavendish finished 4-for-4. Zach Lea (USC Upstate) and Bryson Gault were both 3-for-4. Gault had two doubles.
"I think it’s been a good season for us," Stancil said. "All of these guys will move on and do great things even outside of baseball. I’m proud of all of them and I’m proud to be associated with them."