The Sumter P-15’s looked like they were in store for another nail-biting finish against Lexington Post 7 in Game 3 of their American Legion baseball second-round state playoffs series on Friday at Riley Park.
After surviving for a 7-5 win on Thursday in Lexington, Sumter was clinging to a 5-3 lead after Lexington scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning. However, the P-15’s took away any drama by scoring seven runs in the bottom of the inning for a 12-3 win and a sweep of the best-of-5 series.’
Sumter advances to the state tournament, which begins on Saturday, July 22, at Riley Park. The P-15’s, who are 19-7 on the season, should enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed from the lower state.
“It means a lot to earn a spot in the state tournament,” said P-15’s head coach Steve Campbell, whose team would have still had a spot in the 8-team tournament had it not won its way in. “There is a lot of pressure to do well because of the tradition surrounding the program. We feel like this is one of the best programs in the state and hopefully we can pull things together and make a deep run in the tournament.”
Post 7, which finished the year 13-8, pushed across two runs in the eighth against Sumter relief pitcher Tradd James, who had just come in for starter and winner Dawson Price, to narrow the lead to 5-3. Lexington countered in the bottom of the inning with reliever Andrew Hanson and Sumter jumped on him immediately.
Lathan Todd drew a leadoff walk and James, in his first at-bat of the season, followed with a single. Courtland Howard drew a walk to load the bases before Caleb Larrimore delivered a sacrifice fly to score Todd and make it 6-3.
Price reached on a infield single to reload the bases and Rylan Williamson picked up his second double of the night, this one driving in two runs to make it 8-3. A walk to Joey Pereira reloaded the bases and Ryan Touchberry hit a chopper over a drawn-in infield to make it 10-3 and end Hanson’s time on the mound.
“We got some timely hits in that inning,” Campbell said. “We had missed on some opportunities earlier, but we came through with big hits in that inning.
The P-15’s sent 12 batters to the plate, picking up 12 hits. James batted again in the inning and picked up another hit.
That outburst made it certain that Price would get the win. The right-hander had worked only 15 innings entering the game, but he allowed just one run in seven innings. He scattered six hits while striking out four and walking three.
“We call him Awesome Dawson,” Campbell said. “He gave us what we expected from him. He went out there and pitched a great game. He did a great job of keeping them off balance.”
Price tossed a shutout through the first five innings, though he had just one 1-2-3 inning. It looked like he might get another in the sixth when he retired the first two batters. However, Post 7 managed to scratch across a run.
Cleanup hitter Cameron Cribb drew a walk and moved to second on a Dalton Lansdowne single. Cribb came in to make it 2-1 when Jay Bebee singled back up the middle. Price got out of the inning by getting Jac Crouch to ground out.
Sumter responded by picking up two runs in the bottom of the inning. Joey Pereira led off with a single to left and Touchberry followed with a single to center. Pereira stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cory Blackley to make it 3-1.
The P-15’s pushed the lead to 4-1 when Howard bounced a chopper through the left side to score Touchberry.
Price worked himself into trouble in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single to Crouch and following with a walk to Chase Eargle. However, Price caught leadoff hitter Josh Senter looking at a called third strike curveball and got Walker McDowell to line into a double play to Todd at shortstop to end the inning.
The P-15’s got to Lexington starter Caleb Boozer for another run in the seventh to make it 5-1. Williamson reached on a 2-base error and eventually stole home with two outs as Boozer pitched out of the windup.
The right-handed Boozer gave up nine hits in seven innings and four of the runs were earned. He walked three and struck out two.
Lexington got to James for two runs in the eighth, although a controversial call by home plate umpire Gary Smetana extended the inning. Cole Lemacks led off with a single and went to third on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. After James struck out Cribb, Lansdowne hit a fly ball to leftfielder Touchberry. He uncorked a throw that easily beat Lemacks, who slid wide of the plate to try and avoid the tag of catcher Blackley. Smetana called Lemacks safe, saying he got the hand across the plate to make it 5-2.
A couple of walks and another error helped Post 7 get across another run.
Sumter jumped on Boozer for two runs in the bottom of the first. Howard drew a leadoff walk, stole second and was sacrificed to third. He scored on a double to gap in left-center field by Price.
Williamson followed with a hard-hit ball that handcuffed Lexington third baseman Bebee. It went down the leftfield line for an RBI double that gave the P-15’s a 2-0 lead.
“It was important to get out to that early lead,” Campbell said. “We didn’t trail at all during the playoffs. That was good for us. Lexington might have been a totally different team if they could have got out to the lead on us.”
The P-15’s finished with 15 hits. Price and Touchberry both had three hits and scored two runs. Touchberry had two runs batted in.
Williamson had two hits, both doubles, scored twice and drove in three runs. Pereira, Todd and James each had two hits. Pereira scored two runs as did Howard.