Dustin Kennedy tossed a 4-hitter with nine strikeouts and reached base in three of four plate appearances, accounting for two runs, as Sumter's Junior American Legion baseball team opened the 2018 …
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Dustin Kennedy tossed a 4-hitter with nine strikeouts and reached base in three of four plate appearances, accounting for two runs, as Sumter's Junior American Legion baseball team opened the 2018 state playoffs with an 8-1 win over Marlboro on Tuesday at Riley Park.
The Junior P-15's, now 16-2-1 on the season, will have a chance to sweep the best-of-3 series when they travel to Bennettsville's Marlboro County High School field for a 6:30 p.m. game on Wednesday.
"Dustin's been solid all year," said Sumter head coach Robby Coker. "Dustin's one of those guys, you know he's going to throw strikes and he's going to give you all that he's got every time that he takes the mound, and he doesn't like to come out of a ball game either. He's solid. He's been just like that all year long. You know he's going to throw strikes, and he's going to battle."
Kennedy retired the first five batters he faced before Hewston Owens lined a ball into right field for Marlboro's first hit. Kennedy then put down five more before Tristian McDonald put a ball into right-center for the second hit, but McDonald was quickly erased by catcher SB DuCom on a steal attempt that wasn't even close.
Sumter held a 5-0 lead heading to the top of the fifth when Marlboro, now 5-7, struck for its only run of the night. Owens connected for a 1-out single to left, took second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a Kutler Williams single to right-center and came home on Noah Murphy's sacrifice bunt to Kennedy.
After inducing a grounder to first from Brandon Murphy to end the fifth, Kennedy struck out the side, along with a walk to McDonald, in the sixth. Kennedy's ninth strikeout came to open the seventh as Jessi Williams fell victim for the second time. Owens would reach on Sumter's only error of the night, but the game would end as Williams lined to second baseman Wylie Coker, who flipped to Austin Trapp at first to double off Williams for the final out."
The P-15's gave Kennedy all the support he would need in a 3-run second as Marlboro starter Tanner Chase struggled to find the strike zone. Kennedy drew a walk, with courtesy runner Keaton Price stealing second ahead of Trapp reaching on an error. Wylie Coker followed with a bunt hit to plate Price, with walks to Ducom and Tanner Epps forcing in another run and a Seth Posey fielder's choice bringing Coker home.
Kennedy, who also singled in the fifth, reached on a fielder's choice in the third, helping to set up another run. With Price once again coming on as a courtesy runner and stealing second, an infield grounder from DuCom advanced Price to third and a wild pitch from Chase stretched the Sumter lead to 4-0.
An Epps single to right, followed by another wild pitch and a Posey sac bunt in the fourth pushed the lead to 5-0, with three insurance runs in the sixth accounting for the final victory margin. The sixth-inning rally came against Marlboro reliever Williams, who came to the mound from center field. A Wylie Coker double down the left field line followed by a DuCom single to right-center set up Epps for a sac fly to right that plated Coker. Williams then walked Posey, Victor Brown and Aaron Carlton, sandwiched around an RBI grounder from Bryce Lyons. The final Sumter run came home on a balk before McDonald came on to induce a Kennedy fly to left to end the frame.
"We played a little small ball tonight, put a little pressure on them and did what we had to do to get a few runs across," said Robby Coker, whose team scored eight runs on just six hits. "That's big, when you get into the playoffs and you can get a few runs across by bunting and executing and hitting the ball back side, that kind of thing."
While Sumter would seem to be in the driver's seat heading into Game 2, the Sumter skipper was still cautious as his team prepares to travel to Bennettsville today.
"You never know. When you go down to somebody's home park, that's big," Coach Coker said. "I think we've won every conference game we've played this year here, so you never know what to expect when you go on the road. Teams always get better on the road, no doubt about it, playing on their field. We've just got to stay focused when we get down there. When you go on the road you've got to stay focused and we'll go with Seth Posey on the mound, so we feel good about that. We feel pretty confident."
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