Ben Lippen coach Brian Larsen continues to build the baseball program where he wants it to be.
The Falcons took a big step forward this year after a disappointing 2021 season and were a game away from winning the program’s first state championship in more than a decade.
But Laurence Manning broke open a tie game with three runs in the fifth inning to defeat the Falcons, 7-3, in the deciding game of the SCISA Class 3A baseball series in front of a raucous crowd at Riley Park in Sumter.
“Our guys have battled all year,” Larsen said. “It is hard to see us lose at the end. As much as we knew we had our backs against the wall with their No. 1 pitcher going and a ninth-grader for us. I felt like we were going to win and that is what the hardest part is right now, coming to grips right now.”
Ben Lippen, which was looking for its first championship since 2008, finished the year at 18-7 and improved its win total by 11 games from last season. The Falcons were a No. 3 seed out of five teams in their bracket for the playoffs but knocked off No. 1 seed Wilson Hall twice and No. 2 Cardinal Newman to make it to the finals.
Ben Lippen dropped the series opener, 12-2, in five innings on Monday before winning Game 2, 9-3, on Tuesday to force the deciding game.
“I love these kids and love this program,” Larsen said. “I’m blessed to wake up and coach this group every single morning. It just hurts.”
Things looked good for Ben Lippen as it scored three times in the top of the second to take a 3-0 lead. Jake Treiber had an RBI single for the first run and the Falcons scored two more on an error by LMA shortstop Tyler June.
The SwampCats tied it up in the bottom of the second. June, a South Carolina commit, bounced back from the error in the top of the inning and had a two-run single in the inning to close it to within 3-2. Jackson Brown followed with an RBI single to tie it at 3-3.
It stayed tied until the fifth inning. Laurence Manning had runners on first and third with two outs when Davis Campbell hit a slow rolling ground ball just past pitcher Ray McElveen to put LMA up 4-3.
Joe Wilson followed with a two-run single to put Laurence Manning up 6-3. Six of the SwampCats’ seven runs came with two outs.
Left-hander Jackson Campbell went the distance to pick up the win. Campbell got Jake Suber to ground out with a runner on in the seventh to end it and set off a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound. It was the LMA’s first championship since 2017.
The celebration continued even after the trophy presentation as LMA students ran onto the field to greet the team, which had gathered in right field.
“They had such high expectations the first couple of years and to see it come to fruition,” LMA coach Barry Hatfield said. “I’m just really happy for them. There are nine seniors on this team, so we get to send them off with a ring.
WP: Jackson Campbell. LP: Ray McElveen. Hitters LMA: Tyler June 1-3 2 RBI; Jackson Brown 2-3 RBI; Davis Campbell 1-3 RBI; Joe Wilson 1-3 2 RBI. BL: Jake Treiber 2-3 RBI