Originally created 07/06/99

Post 79 jumps ahead of Aiken . . . briefly

AIKEN -- West Columbia's Post 79 did something rare by jumping ahead of Aiken Post 26 in the first inning Monday night at Satcher Field.

But that lasted only about 10 minutes as Midland Valley product John Rooks needed one swing to tie the contest at 1 with his leadoff homer over the right-field fence.

Everything came back to normal after that with Aiken handing West Columbia a 12-2 thumping that ended with a four-run seventh inning by Post 26 to force the mercy rule.

Aiken has scored at will against West Columbia in the five times they've met, scoring 57 runs. Aiken is 15-1 on the season.

"Our goal tonight was to get one run an inning and we almost did that," Aiken coach Bruce Zuehlke said. "We were able to get some hits and make some plays. We weren't playing up to our potential at the beginning of the season, but now we are although we can still play better."

The league champions didn't need the surplus of scoring Monday as Truett-McConnell and Midland Valley product Derrick Haltiwanger held a one-hitter after five innings and allowed only four hits in all.

While Haltiwanger was mowing down Post 79 batters, Rooks was going 2-for-4 on the night. Silver Bluff graduate D.P. Smith also cleared the yard in the fourth inning. Backup catcher and South Aiken product Rob Hopkins came in to go 2-for-2 on the night.

"Derrick hadn't pitched for us in about two weeks, but he came out and had a really good outing," Zuehlke said. "This was a real well-played overall game. We're a very good defensive ball club, but we still make some mistakes. We're definitely better."

Aiken, which piled up 12 hits, already has clinched the league title and likely will face either Darlington or Hartsville in a five-game first- round series beginning Monday.

While Zuelke is looking forward to either matchup, he is focusing on the remaining regular-season schedule. Aiken travels to Irmo today at 7 p.m., and faces Orangeburg on Wednesday at homebefore ending with West Columbia on Friday.

"We don't know much about either of those clubs," he concluded about the playoffs. "We're looking forward to it, but for now we'll focus on trying some new things and working on getting better."

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