Brig Brannon’s home runs help Hammond baseball win championship series opener

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Brig Brannon knows what it’s like hitting behind Tucker Toman, one of the top high school baseball players in South Carolina.

The Hammond catcher has batted a spot behind Toman the past three seasons, and watched teams pitch around him. That was the formula Cardinal Newman used in Game 1 of the SCISA Class 3A baseball championship series.

Toman was walked all four times he stolled to the plate, and Brannon made the Cardinals pay on two occasions by hitting a pair of three-run homers, including one in the bottom of the sixth to give the Skyhawks a 9-8 victory in front of packed Folsom Field.

Game two of the best-of-three series is Tuesday at Cardinal Newman at 6 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be at Founders Park on Thursday.

“I’m used to him getting walked in front of me,” Brannon said. “I’m always looking to hit a line drive somewhere, hit the ball hard. I’m not trying to hit a home run and sometimes I get a hold of one like tonight. But I was just trying to hit a line drive in the gap and plate at least one.”

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Cardinal Newman led 8-6 going into the bottom of the sixth after scoring twice in the top of the inning.

Matthew Haffner retired the first two Hammond batters in the bottom of the sixth before Bentley Yeatts singled. Then, Haffner threw four straight balls to Toman with none of them close to the strike zone.

While Toman was at bat, Hammond coach Chris Braciszewski came over to Brannon and told him to get ready, stay calm because he knew they would likely walk him.

Brannon stayed patient, but he didn;t take a walk. Instead, and smacked a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence for his third homer of the year. All three of his homers have come in the playoffs.

“What a game and great day for Brig,” Braciszewski said. “It has been like that all year. Teams aren’t going to let Toman beat them. I told my guys if they are going to walk us and give us free bases, Brig is going to come through.”

The homer came in Brannon’s last at-bat at Folsom Field. The senior, who also was part of Hammond’s state championship football team, said he was a little emotional playing in his last home game.

“I have been thinking about it last week and coming to this week,” Brannon said. “We couldn’t lose this game. It was a must-win for these seniors. We couldn’t go out in our final home game with a loss.”

Tyler Albright picked up the win in relief and Jack Weston had the save.

The game went back and forth between the past two state champions. Cardinal Newman won it all in 2018 and Hammond in 2019. Last year’s season was wiped out by COVID-19.

Cardinal Newman rallied from a three-run deficit in the first and were down 6-4 in the fourth. But Logan Busenlehner hit a two-run homer in the fifth and Patrick Boyle’s RBI single put the Cards up 7-6 in the sixth inning.

WP: Tyler Albright LP: Matthew Haffner SV: Jack Weston Hitters: CN: Alex Myers 1-2 2 RBI; Patrick Boyle 2-3 2 RBI; Logan Busenlehner. H: Brig Brannon 2-3 2 HR, 6 RBI; Cannon Dorsey 1-3 HR, 2 RBI; Bentley Yeatts 1-3 RBI.

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