By DENNIS BRUNSON
Curtis Johnson has pitched at Riley Park when the stands were packed for Sumter P-15's games. Now the head coach of the American Legion baseball program, Johnson is hoping his players get to experience that …
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Curtis Johnson has pitched at Riley Park when the stands were packed for Sumter P-15's games. Now the head coach of the American Legion baseball program, Johnson is hoping his players get to experience that on Monday.
Sumter will be playing host to Florence Post 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the opening game of 4-team, double-elimination state tournament.
"This is big for the team, big for the community," said Johnson, whose team will take a 24-9 record into the contest. "You're playing in the state tournament against your rival at Riley Park. I don't know why you wouldn't come out. This is the biggest game to be played in this park in a long, long time."
The P-15's advanced to the state tournament with a 6-4 win over Goose Creek on Friday in Sumter to win the best-of-5 third-round state playoffs series 3-1. Florence, which is 32-4, wrapped up its series on Friday as well, beating Camden 12-1 to win the series 3-1;
Sumter and Post 1 are League II foes, Florence winning the league by one game. The teams played twice during the regular season, splitting the contests. Sumter won the first contest 6-4 before losing the second 11-5.
Sumter dropped a game to Lake City to finish second. The P-15's are getting to host the game, however, because of a rule written in the South Carolina American Legion rule book. It stated if a team played host to an opening game last year - the first year of the format - it would have to play on the road this year.
Sumter traveled to Florence last season and beat Post 1 on the way to a second-place finish in the state tournament.
Johnson said on Saturday he has yet to decide on who will start Monday's game. All of his pitchers are available with the exception of Jacob Holladay, who pitched six innings in winning Friday's game.
The other first-round game will feature the two upper state teams. Greer Post 115 will play at Fort Mill on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
The tournament will move to Columbia and Segra Park - the home of the Columbia Fireflies - on Wednesday. The losers will face off at 4 p.m. in an elimination game with the winners meeting at 7.
One game will be played on Thursday, and it is a very important game. The winner of Wednesday's first game will meet the loser of the second game at 7 p.m. with a spot in the championship round on the line. Whoever wins will at least be the runner-up and earn a bid in the Southeast Regional along with the state champion.
That's what happened to Sumter last year. Georgia didn't have American Legion last year, so it was determined South Carolina would get two teams since it had the most programs in the states involved in the Southeast Regional.
The championship round will be played on Friday. The first game is set for a 4 p.m. start. If a second game is needed, it is scheduled for 7.
Johnson said his team is confident of its chances going into the tournament, and it is excited to be representing Sumter.
"We're a group of guys from a lot of different schools with the city's name on our chests," he said. "It's a credit to our guys. They've bought in and believe in the Sumter P-15's tradition."
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