For the First Time in 20 Years, The Edenton Steamers Repeat as Champs

by Jared Taylor

Edenton, NC – Repetition is one of the hardest things baseball players attempt to do, whether it is finding the perfect spot on the hill, executing an approach at the plate, or replicating a championship the year prior.

In 2023, the Edenton Steamers achieved that repetition by hoisting the club’s second straight Postove Cup.

The Steamers won the Premier Collegiate League for the second consecutive season defeating the Tarboro River Bandits in a three-game series. It was the first time since the 2004-05 season the Steamers have won back-to-back championships. During the season the Clams dealt with player injuries and departures, pressure following a championship squad, and new changes to the league format.

In the regular season, the Steamers faced off against five PCL opponents and six exhibition teams. In the Premier Collegiate League, the Clams faced off against the Tarboro River Bandits, Norfolk Redbirds, Virginia Beach Sea Dogs, Greenbrier Knights, and the new team on the block the Outer Banks Scallywags.

In non-league games, the Steamers played the Wake Forest Fungo, the Clayton Clovers, the High Point Air Force, the Catawba Valley Stars, the Carolina Disco Turkeys, and the Uwharrie Wampus Cats.

The Steamers finished the 39-game-regular season with a 28-11 record including a 22-6 record against PCL opponents. Edenton not only produced at home but also carried the show on the road. The Steamers finished 18-7 at Historic Hicks Field and 10-4 away from home.

By season’s end, the Clams secured the #1 seed in the PCL Playoffs with a matchup against the #4 seed Greenbrier Knights in the first round of a new-look playoff format. This season four teams (the Steamers, Tarboro River Bandits, Outer Banks Scallywags, Greenbrier Knights) made the playoffs, 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 in a 3-game series.

In game one, the Clams held a 6-2 lead heading into the 7th inning. The Knights mounted a five-run comeback to take game one, 7-6, and force a win-or-go-home game 2 for the Steamers.

For the second straight season, the Chowan County Cantaloupes were the Steamers alter ego during the regular season, but during the postseason, the Cardiac Clams took over.

The boys of summer thrived when behind in a ball game finishing with three wins while trailing by at least three runs.

In game two against Greenbrier, the Cardiac Clams showed out. The Clams trailed 2-0 in the eighth inning before scoring 3 unanswered runs in the final two innings to even the series.

In game three, the Steamers fell into an early 3-0 hole before scoring three runs in the fifth and the sixth inning to tie the game. The game remained tied after nine innings to force extra innings. In the 11th inning, the Clams scored two runs to advance to the Championship series.

The win set up a rematch of the 2022 PCL Championship between the Steamers and the Tarboro River Bandits.

The two PCL rivals faced off in the postseason for the third straight season and the second straight in the final game/series with the championship in reach.

In game one the River Bandits set the tone early in Tarboro by capitalizing on Steamers’ mistakes. The Steamers pitchers walked 12 River Bandits leading to 8 Tarboro runs on just five hits. For the second straight series, the Clams trailed 1-0.

In game two, the two teams engaged in a dominant pitching performance as the series turned to Historic Hicks. Steamers Ace Chandler Padgett tossed six innings and allowed only one run. On the other side River Bandits starter Jake Fuller threw five shutout innings.

Late in the 1-0 game, the Cardiac Clams reappeared. The Steamers scored three runs in the 7th inning and the 8th inning. John Horton sealed the deal in the ninth and the Steamers took game 2, 6-2.

In the third and final game of the season and the series, the Steamers offense took charge in the early going. The Clams scored six unanswered runs in the first three innings to go up 6-0.

The offense came from all over the lineup. #3 hitter Gabe Kirck, had two hits and two runs, and #7 batter Drifton Padgett had two hits including a home run and four RBIs.

Edenton and Tarboro traded runs in the middle innings to bring the score to 10-2 entering the 8th inning.

Head Coach Justin Hill gave the baseball to third-year Clam, Tyrus Baumgardner, to hold the lead in the eighth inning in relief of starter Ben Bausas.

The River Bandits greeted Baumgardner with three runs in the top of the 8th inning to close the gap to 10-5.

In the top of the ninth, Baumgardner returned to the mound to close out his third season in the teal and black. The West Virginia State product was with the team in 2021 when the Clams lost to Tarboro in the 1st round and in 2022 when the Steamers finished the job over the River Bandits.

With two outs and two on, Baumgardner induced a fly ball to center fielder Drifton Padgett to start the celebration on the field that culminated in an ice water bath for Hill.

The 2023 PCL Championship was the Clams’ fifth championship since 1998. The Clams struggled in the postseason after winning back to back won consecutive Coastal Plain League Championships in 2004 and 2005.

The teal and black lost in the 1st round or the semi-finals in nine straight seasons (2006-2014) before the 2015 championship under Bryan Hill. The Steamers could not get back to the promised land until Justin Hill won the team’s fourth championship in 2022. With the 2023 Postove Cup, Hill became the first Steamers manager since Joel Tremblay in 2004-05 to win two championships.

On the field, the Steamers were headlined by dependable pitching, clutch hitting, and dazzling defense all around the diamond. The Clams brought in over 15 new players from across the country that established a special connection en route to the ultimate prize.

Gabe Kirck took home the Harry Postove Memorial Tournament Most Valuable Player and carried the Clams throughout the playoff run. The Gross Point Woods, MI native had a .409 batting average, 9 hits, 2 home runs, and 10 RBIs in six postseason games.

While Kirck took home postseason MVP, Luke Myers took home the 2023 Gieseke Gold Award (Team MVP). Myers played in all 45 games during the season and provided versatility in the middle of the Clams’ infield. The infielder from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore started the year at second base before sliding over to shortstop after injuries to fellow infielders. Myers finished the year with a .231 batting average, a .387 on-base percentage, and 20 RBIs.

In the outfield, the Clams had another all-around stud roaming centerfield. Drifton Padgett won the 2023 Goodman Glove Award given to the Clams’ best defender. In 40 games in center, Padgett recorded a team-high 6 outfield assists with just one error. At the dish, Padgett finished with a .230 batting average, a .358 on-base percentage, and 2 home runs including one in the final championship game.

Ty Garza brought an impressive glove to third base while batting in the middle of the Steamers’ lineup. Garza took over the starting third baseman spot and never looked back playing in 43 games. At the plate, the fellow Michigan native batted .276 with 40 hits, six more than any other Steamer. Garza turned it on in the playoffs with a .400 average, 8 hits, and 3 RBIs in six games.

On the mound, the Steamers had a pair of front-line starters and back-of-the-bullpen arms that excelled all season long. The Clams had five pitchers that finished with a 3.00 ERA or lower and finished with 340 strikeouts as a team.

Chandler Padgett was the Clams’ number-one starter all season long. In the month of June, the pitcher from NC Wesleyan finished with a 0.75 ERA over 5 starts. Padgett dealt with lingering arm issues which kept him out of starting down the stretch of the regular season. In the postseason Padgett dominated in 6 innings in a win-or-go-home game against Tarboro in the championship series.

Ben Bausas gave the Steamers an elusive option out of the gates and in the bullpen. Bausas appeared in 14 games and started five while thriving in any role. The two-way player from Chowan finished with a team-high 53.0 innings pitched, 2nd on the team in ERA 2.03, and T-2nd on the team in strikeouts with 39. Bausas also became the second straight pitcher from Chowan University (Nicky Wolehking) to start a postseason game.

John Horton was the Clams’ lockdown late in tight ball games. Horton finished the season with the most appearances for a pitcher (23) and T-2nd on the team in strikeouts with Bausas with 39. The reliever from Norfolk State University threw 7 innings out of the bullpen in the postseason when the Clams were behind and kept the games within reach.

Tyrus Baumgardner continued to age like fine wine in a Steamers uniform. Baumgardner arrived late to the team after the spring season. Baumgardner appeared in 14 games and tossed 25.1 innings out of the Clams’ bullpen. The right-handed arm did not allow an earned run in 8 straight appearances and had 9 strikeouts during that span.

Edenton’s championships have come in pairs before but never in a trio.

The Steamers will start the quest for three straight championships in 2024, the team’s 27th season.