The game itself was far from a thing of beauty, but in the end Friday’s American Legion baseball state playoffs game against Goose Creek Post 166 couldn’t’ have been much sweeter for the Sumter P-15’s.
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Sumter starting pitcher Jacob Holladay got through three rocky innings with minimal damage, and his teammates pushed across four runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 6-4 win at Riley Park that gave the P-15’s a 3-1 win in the best-of-5 third-round series.
Sumter, which is 24-9 on the season, advances to the 4-team, double-elimination state tournament. It begins on Monday with the P-15’s playing host to Florence at 7:30 p.m. at Riley Park. Florence beat Camden 12-1 on Friday to win its series 3-1 as well.
The rest of the tournament will be played at Segra Park in Columbia beginning on Wednesday.
“I’m as proud as I can be of my guys,” said Sumter head coach Curtis Johnson. “They just battled and competed out there until we finally had some good things happen.”
The P-15’s had the bases loaded in three of its first five at-bats, but managed just two runs. They finally broke through in the sixth with some help from Goose Creek, which finished at 14-10.
Josh Davis had come on in relief of starting pitcher Dalton Godin and struck out Tray Yates on three pitches to start the inning. However, Victor Brown followed with a single, stole second base and went to third when catcher Blake Marrs threw the ball into center. Brown then scored on a wild pitch to give Sumter a 3-2 lead.
SB DuCom drew a walk and reached second on a Chandler Hunter groundout. After Trent Frye was hit by a pitch, Drake Thames singled to left to score DuCom and make it 4-2. Frye and Thames moved up a base on an error on the relay.
Frye eventually scored on a wild pitch, and Thames came home on an infield hit by Dustin Kennedy to make it 6-2.
“We just couldn’t get a key hit in the early part of the game,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t catch a break, but it finally worked out for us.”
Those final two runs proved to be might valuable for Sumter. Kennedy came on in relief of Holladay in the seventh and promptly retired the first two batters. However, Davis reached on an infield single and Kennedy walked Marrs. Jackson Price then ripped a 2-run double in the left-center gap to make it 6-4.
Kennedy got Jake Chapman though to ground out and set off a celebration.
“That’s a really good hitting team that we faced,” Johnson said of Goose Creek, which is coached by former P-15’s assistant coach David Horton. “They battled us until the very end.”
The right-handed Holladay scattered six hits – all of them coming in the first three innings – while striking out four and walking two.
“Jacob just kept competing and kept competing,” Johnson said. “He got better as the game went along. He told me last night at Wendy’s (after a 9-4 loss to Goose Creek in Summerville on Thursday) that he wanted the ball. We needed for him to give us some innings and that’s what he did.”
The game was a war of attrition between Holladay and Godin. Both kept getting into trouble, and for the most part, getting out of it unscathed.
Holladay avoided trouble from the very outset. Will McGuire drew a walk from Holladay to open the game. Davis followed with a hit to left field before Marrs hit into a fielder’s choice to move McGuire to third.
Price delivered a fly ball to center that brought McGuire across home plate. However, home plate umpire Damon Scott ruled that Price stepped out of the batter’s box, thus nullifying the run and sending McGuire back to third. Jake Chapman grounded back to Holladay to end the inning.
“Price was way out of the box,” Johnson said. “We had noticed that he had been doing that, and we asked the umpires to keep on eye on that. Damon made a good call.”
Holladay retired the first batter in the second before giving up four straight singles, the final one from McGuire, delivering Shelton to make it 1-0. However, Holladay got Davis to ground to Frye at third. He threw home for the force and catcher Corey Blackley threw to first for the double play.
In the third, Post 166 loaded the bases with no outs. It scored a run to make it 2-1 when Noah Pewezich hit into a double play, but Holladay retired the next batter to limit the damage.
Godin pitched five innings and didn’t strike out a batter. However, he allowed five hits and walked eight but gave up only two runs.
The P-15’s loaded the bases with no outs in the second. Yates delivered a sacrifice fly to easily score Kennedy, but Jackson Hoshour was thrown out trying to get to third. Brown popped out for the final out, leaving the score 1-1.
Sumter looked a though it was going to take control of the game in the fourth. A walk to Hoshour, a hit by Blackley and an intentional walk to Yates loaded the bases with one out. Brown drew a walk to force in a run and tie the game at 2-2.
DuCom followed by hitting a deep fly ball on which left fielder Alex Dial made a great catch. It should have scored Hoshour, but Yates misread the ball and was doubled off of second, thus nullifying the run.
“Tray just lost sight of the ball,” Johnson said. “The kid made a great play.”
Yates redeemed himself in the top of the fifth though with a great defensive play in left.
Davis reached on a 2-base error to start the inning and moved to third on a Marrs fly out. Price followed with a fly ball to Yates in medium left. Davis tagged on the play, but Yates threw a strike to Blackley, the throw easily beating Davis to the plate for the double play.”
The P-15’s rolled three double plays, while Post 166 had two.
Thames, Kennedy and Blackley each had two hits for Sumter with Kennedy and Thames each driving in a run. Hoshour walked three times and scored a run, while Brown had a hit, a run and an RBI.
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