It took some more extra-inning magic, but Sumter High School baseball head coach Brooks Shumake notched his 400th career coaching victory on Friday as the Gamecocks rallied with single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings for a 3-2 Region …
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It took some more extra-inning magic, but Sumter High School baseball head coach Brooks Shumake notched his 400th career coaching victory on Friday as the Gamecocks rallied with single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings for a 3-2 Region VI-5A win over Conway at Gamecock Field.
The win did not come without some very anxious moments as Trey Yates was hit by a pitch from Conway reliever Brendan Batten that Shumake said caught the Sumter leftfielder in the earflap of his helmet. Yates made a few steps toward first base before slumping to the ground along the first base line. Yates stayed down for about 10 minutes as team and school officials took all precautions before calling an ambulance. As the game ended, teammates and coaches gathered around the ambulance as Yates was about to head to the hospital for observation.
"We just, our whole team went over and looked at him as they were going to just take him to the hospital and check him out," Shumake said. "Just very, very, very, very concerned, you know, when a kid gets hit by a fastball, and that kid really let that ball go, right in the earhole like that, it's terrifying. I can even halfway get emotional talking about it, because when you look at the kid leave and everything it's just not what you like to see out here."
Yates' exit came in the middle of what would be a game-winning rally in the bottom of the eighth. Victor Brown opened the inning with a single up the middle on a ball that hopped over Tiger shortstop Jordan Hillburn's head. Bryce Lyons came on to run for Yates, giving the Gamecocks runners at second and first ahead of an infield single from starting pitcher Jacob Holladay. With the bases loaded and no outs, cleanup hitter Drake Thames did his job with a single to left that plated Zion Brown, who had come on as a courtesy runner for Victor Brown.
"Our whole season has been based around pitching and defense and just trying to stay in games, like tonight, and just scratch and claw and try to do something at the end," said Shumake, whose team improved to 9-11 overall and 7-2 in region play, clinching at least second place.
"Our whole season, all our wins have come that way except for a couple where we separated a little bit with the run differential on a couple of teams. Every game we've played, we just have to play good, clean baseball and try to pitch well because we don't bang the fence down. We just scratch and claw, and that's what our guys do, and I'm proud of the way they do that. We're just going to keep working on all phases of the game, hitting being one of them, and we're just going to continue to work. That's what we do with our program."
For much of the night, Sumter batters struggled to figure out Conway starter Keith Autry Benton. Through five innings, the Gamecocks trailed 2-0, courtesy of a 2-run home run launched over the leftfield fence by Tonka Hemingway following an infield single from Hillburn in the first. Benton had allowed just three baserunners during that span, with Yates singling to left in the first, Joey Pereira being hit by a pitch in the second and Holladay drawing a base on balls in the fourth.
As Yates stepped into the batter's box with one out in the sixth, Benton had retired seven consecutive batters, including a stretch of five straight fly ball outs. Yates reached on a hit by pitch and broke for second on a perfectly executed hit-and-run, ending up at third as Holladay smacked a single to right. Holladay broke for second, drawing a throw that allowed Yates to cross the plate on a double steal for Sumter's first run.
The Gamecocks tied the score in the seventh as Jackson Hoshour smashed Benton's first pitch of the inning into left field for a double. Hoshour would steal third and later come home on a balk, a call which resulted in Conway head coach Anthony Carroll being ejected.
Benton and Holladay were fairly even after Holladay's bumpy first inning. Benton threw 80 pitches through his seven innings of work, striking out two, hitting two and walking two while Holladay left after 6 2/3 innings, striking out two and surrendering five hits on 83 pitches.
Shumake, who played at Hartsville High School and Clemson University before spending four years in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, is in his 19th season as Sumter's head coach. He has led the Gamecocks to their only three state championships, in 2006, 2011 and 2014. The last two championships book-ended Shumake's only time away from Sumter High during his 21 years of coaching, a two-year stint at White Knoll High School.
"What it really testifies to is that we've had a lot of good players that have come through here and a lot of good coaches that have developed these kids over the years, through all of my head coaching experience," said Shumake, who was a 2017 inductee into the Sumter Sports Hall of Fame. "It's very humbling to have won 400 games, and it's just time. If you stay out long enough and work hard, I think sometimes good things can happen to you. I'm real blessed, and I just want to thank God for allowing me to be out here with these kids every day.
"The state championships are special, but I just want to thank everybody that's been a part of our program, and all the players that have played for me over the years and the coaches that have coached with me. I just want to thank them for being dedicated and committed to just trying to help us go out each day and compete to try to win that particular game on that day."
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