One way or another, a local baseball team will advance to the South Carolina Junior Legion Tournament in Inman. The only question is whether it will be Manning-Santee or Sumter.
Manning and Sumter will battle in a best-of-3 series beginning on …
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Manning and Sumter will battle in a best-of-3 series beginning on Monday for the right to advance to the 8-team tournament that determines the state champion.
Manning entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed from League III, easily dispatching West Florence Green in two games while Sumter entered as a 3 seed, upsetting second-seeded Hartsville.
Both teams dealt with unpredictable weather last week when rain and lightning delayed or suspended their games on Monday and Tuesday. Sumter, which is the defending state champion, wrapped up its series with a 6-1 win over Hartsville on Thursday. Manning finally finished Game 1 of its series on Wednesday before pulling out a 6-5 victory in the second game to eliminate West Florence Green.
Manning and Sumter are very familiar with each other both on and off the field. They'll meet for the third time this season. Manning won the first two games by a combined two runs, winning 9-8 in Manning and 3-2 at Sumter.
"Sumter has a great program over there," said Manning head coach Mark Campbell. "They have a bunch of young men over there that I've had the honor of coaching in Little League, and that makes it a little difficult to play against them."
"We've had two good games [against Manning], and we really know their coaching staff," said Sumter head coach Randy Twitty. "Coach Campbell and [his staff] do a good job. They're friends of ours. We're just going to focus on ourselves. I always tell our guys, 'We're playing against the game of baseball. We're trying to pitch well, field the ball well and have some good swings'. If we do those things, usually the wins and losses take care of themselves."
Both coaches are pleased with how their teams have performed, but know they'll need to see a bit more out of their players in order to advance to the next round.
"Early on pitching was kind of our strong suit," said Twitty. "In the middle part of the season we started making a bunch of errors and our pitching kinda slipped."
For Manning, it's been inconsistency at the plate that's plagued it throughout the year.
"We can always hit the ball a lot better than what we do. I would like us to swing the bats a little better to take pressure off of our pitching staff," said Campbell.
As reigning state champion, Sumter appears to be peaking at just the right time for the second year in a row. They swept a good Hartsville team, allowing just three runs in two games.
"We feel good where we're at. I like our team. We're pretty steady in all three phases [right now]," said Twitty.
For Manning, it's been the maturation of a young ball club that's given it hope for this year and for the future.
"We've got a very young team, so we weren't sure where we'd fit into the mix of things," said Campbell. "As the schedule went along, our kids kept battling. We had a few 1-run games that could've gone either way, but our kids kept battling. Our guys never quit. They play hard, and they love playing together as a unit."
Game 1, scheduled for Monday at Manning High School Field, will feature Sumter ace Austin Trapp. Trapp is 4-1 on the season with a 2.48 earned run average.
"He gives us a chance whenever he's on the mound," said Twitty. "He's been very consistent this year and doesn't walk many batters."
Manning is unsure who it will start on Monday, but Jackson Campbell has been its most reliable starter this season and is one of a handful of pitchers that could get the nod.
Game 2 is slated for Tuesday at Riley Park, and Wednesday's game, if necessary, will return to Manning.
All games are scheduled for 7 p.m. start times.
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