For five innings, Sumter High School's varsity baseball team experienced an exercise in futility against Conway High School starting pitcher Jeremy Jones.
Jones was not blowing the Gamecocks away but did manage to strike out three and induce nine …
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Jones was not blowing the Gamecocks away but did manage to strike out three and induce nine flyball outs among the first 15 SHS putouts. Sumter had baserunners in the second, third and fourth innings but nothing to show for its efforts on the scoreboard as Jones made a leadoff home run by Brett Young stand up for a 1-0 Tigers lead heading to the sixth.
Things looked bleak for the Gamecocks as Conway put up two runs in the top of the sixth to stretch its lead to 3-0, but Sumter rallied for two in the sixth and Caleb Larrimore delivered a walk-off single to bring pinch-runner Luke Stokes home in the seventh for a 4-3 victory.
"I just talked to my team and they said they felt like they were swinging at too many balls right above the waist and we were popping too many balls up," said SHS head coach Brooks Shumake of his team's struggles at the plate against Jones. "We flew out way too much tonight. We didn't put the ball on the ground a lot. He had a little bit of a funky move in his windup where he threw his elbow at you a little bit and I think the ball comes out of his elbow when he turns to pitch. I kind of thought that might have been having our guys a little bit late on him, which sometimes induces a lot of popups."
With one out in the second, Dawson Price was the first Gamecock to reach base against Jones with a single up the middle. Price, however, would be wiped out at second on a Joshua Sykes fielder's choice grounder before Hampton Rowe doubled to right. With two runners in scoring position, Jones would induce a fly ball to right in foul territory from Andrew Twitty to end the threat.
Larrimore drew a 2-out walk in the third but be left stranded as Jordan Holladay flew out to center. In the fourth, Price would once again single, this time to left-center, but be wiped out attempting to steal second.
After Conway's 2-run rally in the top of the sixth, it was Jones' third run through the SHS lineup that saw the Gamecocks finally have some sustained success. Leadoff hitter Ryan Moore doubled to right, took third on a Larrimore fly ball to center and scored on Rylan Williamson single up the middle. Holladay, who had drawn a base on balls, came home on a balk that advanced Williamson and Price, who had reached on a third single, to second and third. The inning would end with Price getting doubled up on a Sykes liner to second.
It took a little Twitty magic to pull Sumter even and set up Larrimore's walk-off heroics. Andrew Twitty drew a 1-out, 6-pitch walk ahead of a double to right by his twin brother Daniel, scoring pinch runner Trey Yates from first to tie the game, 3-3.
"Daniel has been struggling this year, but he's a big kid and, to be honest with you, at first he wasn't looking at me a lot for any signs," said Shumake, whose team stands at 8-1 and 3-0 in Region VI-5A. "I just felt like I needed to make him swing the bat because it was going to give him no decision to make. So I called him down, we put the hit-and-run on there and that play just happened to work out for us where he stroked it down the line and Yates is running and it gets away from the guy's glove and we're able to tie the game there. That was a huge play and they executed that play really well.
"My whole thing (on Larrimore's hit) was with one out I was going to send the guy. I was ready to get the game won, so I thought if this guy gets any kind of hit at all, we're sending this guy home. If they throw us out, we've got two outs and we've still got Holladay up. We had Moore on (after a walk) and we felt like Holladay would have an opportunity to drive the run in, even if they threw us out, so we felt we had two opportunities if it came to that."
Price's bid for a second consecutive no-hitter came to a quick halt after Young lifted Price's fourth pitch of the game over the left field fence. Will Smith would single to right with one out and take second on a wild pitch before Price rallied to retire Blake Jordan on a fly ball to right and strike out Hanes.
Those two putouts would start a string of 15 straight for Price, with Todd McLellan recording the next Conway hit, a single to left, with one out in the sixth. Price would throw 98 pitches in six innings, striking out six while walking none and surrendering just four hits.
Williamson came on to pitch the seventh and pick up the win, striking out one and issuing an intentional walk before getting McLellan on a 5-3 grounder to close the frame.
Sumter travels to Goose Creek tonight to take on Cane Bay in non-region play.
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