When the Sumter Junior P-15's made the Junior American Legion baseball state tournament last season, they did so as a very young team.
When the Junior P-15's begin play in the state playoffs on Tuesday to try and find their way back to the state …
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When the Junior P-15's begin play in the state playoffs on Tuesday to try and find their way back to the state tournament, they will do so as a veteran squad.
"We've got a lot of returning players from last year on this squad," said Sumter head coach Robby Coker, whose team will begin a best-of-3 first-round series against Marlboro on Tuesday at Riley Park beginning at 7 p.m. "We've got a lot of guys who have been through this before. We've been to the state tournament and done that, so they know what to expect."
When the Junior P-15's advanced to the state tournament last season and finished with an 18-7 record after going 1-2, it was the first time the program had done so since 2007. They go into the series with Marlboro with a 15-2-1 overall record. They went 13-1 in winning League IV.
The second game is scheduled for Wednesday in Bennettsville with a third game, if needed, back at Riley on Thursday.
The winner between Sumter and Marlboro will take on the winner of the first-round series between Camden and Darlington. The Junior P-15's would have the home-field advantage in that series as well.
While Sumter has won the overwhelming majority of its games, Coker admits it hasn't necessarily been an easy chore for his squad.
"We have won a lot of games where we were behind or we wee tied late in the game," Coker said. "This is a group that battles and doesn't give up. They play hard, and they know how to get it done."
Dustin Kennedy is set to start on the mound on Tuesday with Seth Posey likely to take the hill on Wednesday. The pitching staff has been stout all season, allowing just 43 runs.
"Our pitching has been great all year, it really has," said Coker, whose son Wylie is the closer on the squad. "The main thing we tell them is to throw strikes. Walks drive me crazy. If they hit it, they hit it, but I just hate giving them free passes."
Coach Coker believes his team's offense is starting to come back around after going through a slump. He also said defense has been a strong point as well.
"I'd put our fielding percentage up against anybody's," the head coach said.
SUMTER JUNIOR P-15'S
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