Ivey pitches Lady Gamecocks to District 5 title game, wins Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week


The Sumter High softball team played for the SCHSL 5A District 5 title on Wednesday. The biggest reason was the right arm of Lillie Ivey.

Ivey spent her season trying to get back to full strength after suffering an injury last spring. She slowly built up her stamina to be ready for the playoffs. When the lights were bright in the postseason, she pitched like a star.

Ivey didn't allow an earned run in wins over Fort Dorchester and Cane Bay last week. Her incredible performance also helped her earn recognition as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.

"It feels really good," Ivey said of the recognition. "Especially coming back from the surgery and everything. It feels really good knowing that I have a lot of people supporting me and helping me get back to where I am."

Sumter High head coach Mike Moss was confident Ivey would be ready to step up after putting in a tremendous amount of hard work since her injury. The other Coach Moss, Mike's wife, Courtney, worked very closely with Ivey to make sure she would be ready to go.

"The two of them would sit in the bullpen, and I think Lillie got up to throwing like 200 pitches in a couple of days' time," Mike Moss said. "Lillie was very willing. We checked every day to see what her pain level was, and she just did everything she was asked to do. We're very proud of her for that.

"She's been a trooper every step of the way. Lillie is very, very deserving of this; it's a long time coming. She's just a terrific kid."

The process started well before the season began, as Ivey went through months of physical therapy before getting close to stepping in the circle.

"It all started before I could even throw a ball. I had to do physical therapy three times a week for a good two months," Ivey said. "With the help of both Mosses, I was able to work on Saturdays and Sundays, and during practice I had a protocol I had to do with the ball, where I was only allowed to do certain pitches from a certain distance to put a certain amount of pressure on my arm for a solid month. Then I got cleared to play, and I was only allowed to pitch every once in a while as I worked my way back in."

Sumter High started the week with a trip to Fort Dorchester. Ivey was locked in from the jump.

"I really had to focus. That was my main goal," she said. "We didn't have a good game with them two years prior, so I really wanted to beat them. My main thing was to stay focused and try my best for the team."

Ivey was unhittable in the 3-1 win. She allowed one unearned run on three hits and one walk. She finished with 13 strikeouts, making life a little easier for the rest of the Lady Gamecocks.

"She came out really loose. She felt really good that day," Coach Moss said. "We've got a little thing going on with Fort Dorchester. The last two times we'd played them, they beat us. She really wanted that game, she wanted the win, and she got it. I was really pleased with her performance."

Despite the high strikeout total, Ivey was able to keep her pitch count somewhat in line with 92 pitches. Part of that was to ensure that she could finish the game.

"I just had to try not to get tired and keep my team going because I feel like they might get bored, in the nicest way possible," Ivey joked about trying to keep her pitch count down. "I had to keep myself going because I have gotten a little tired ever since the surgery. I'm not completely as strong as I was, so I have to keep the mindset going mentally and physically."

If Ivey wasn't already confident after her performance against Fort D, she was definitely feeling better when she saw the Lady Gamecocks' next opponent, Cane Bay. Last postseason, Ivey pitched a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Cobras.

"I would say we were pretty confident," she said. "You never know what to expect. They could have a whole different team at that point, but I would say we were pretty confident about it."

Maybe most importantly, Ivey got some early run support. Sumter High scored three runs in the first, and they were able to cruise from there as Ivey again allowed just three hits and a walk, while striking out five.

"Usually I get really nervous in the first inning, so it was really relaxing after that first half inning, actually," Ivey said.

Unfortunately, the District 5 championship on Wednesday was the end of the season for the Lady Gamecocks. While the year wrapped up earlier than she hoped, Ivey is amped up to hit the field with her teammates again next spring. Most of the team will be back and will come with an extra year of experience.

"I'm really excited. I grew up playing with all of them, so to be able to make it this far, it was really exciting. I really think we can make it further next year. Playing with all of them is really fun. I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else."