Thomas Sumter spring invigorated by return of varsity softball, soccer


For half a decade, springs at Thomas Sumter have been a bit light.

While track and baseball have been constants in the final season of the school year, the Generals had been without varsity softball since 2019 and soccer since 2018.

That all changed this spring.

Both sports took different paths to return, but the Generals are thrilled to have a little bit more hustle and bustle this spring.

"It has been really, really nice," acting athletic director Tanner Brunson said. "It's busy all the time. It feels like every afternoon there's a home spring sports event going on somewhere. We've seen a lot of our kids that may not have an interest in soccer come out to watch the soccer games or kids staying after school to watch B team and varsity softball.

"Attendance at all the games has been good. It's ultimately generating more success because it does take a village to build a great sports program."

As far as soccer coach Eric Leagones is concerned, a rising tide lifts all ships in the spring.

"I think it's been great," he said. "I honestly think the success of the softball team and the soccer team, once we get it out there and people understand that Wilson Hall isn't the only avenue we have for spring sports now, I think we'll see some enrollment based on the opportunities to play soccer and softball at Thomas Sumter."


Softball's return to the varsity level has been a long time coming.

The process started in earnest two years ago when they began the B team program. They didn't play a full schedule at Thomas Sumter, but they laid the groundwork for success by drawing in a dedicated crowd. When head coach David Porter came in last year, he was excited to help expand the program further by adding a JV team into the mix with a full slate of games. He thought last season really laid the foundation for them to be successful this spring.

"We probably could've gone varsity last year, but we didn't feel like we were ready for it at that point. We felt like playing a year of JV was better for everybody, and it was," he said. "Having that year to build off and to step up into this year and playing varsity has been a lot of fun for them."

That groundwork paved the way for early success. They won their first three games and faced some good challenges in teams like Ben Lippen and Orangeburg Prep. As the season continues, Porter feels the growing interest in the sport.

"There's been a lot more excitement this year. Just building on the success that we had last year with the middle school and JV level, it created a lot of buzz around the school," he said. "This year, it's been a lot of fun. We've had a lot of students coming out to watch the games. The parents are excited to see their kids competing at the top level of high school softball."

The softball team also has plenty of room to grow, as TSA has no seniors and just one junior. This team will have a chance to blossom in unison for several seasons, especially as interest in the sport continues to grow around them.

"We wanted to make sure we did it the right way, building with the younger girls," Porter said. "We've got a great group of middle-school girls this year; we had a great group last year that are trying to do things the right way. Of course, on the varsity, we only have one junior, so we're very young, and that's allowed us to do things the right way. People are starting to notice that. We've got a couple of new students, and we've got a couple more coming next year. Hopefully we can keep building on that because they're seeing what we have to offer with our softball program."


Soccer took the more direct approach. With a committed group of players this spring, which includes five seniors, they wanted to jump at the opportunity to host a varsity team immediately. Leagones has loved the response from the TSA community.

"There's been a lot of excitement, especially around the faculty members who have been there for a long time and were sad to see it go," Leagones said. "I've noticed that since we started playing, there's more interest from the middle-school students. I've had several parents show a lot of appreciation for the outlet of soccer."

The layout of the athletic facilities at Thomas Sumter has provided some interesting challenges this spring. The outfield on the baseball field is the football and soccer field at TSA, which means the Generals had to get creative when making schedules this spring. Leagones has worked closely with baseball coach Leniel Gonzalez to make sure both teams get adequate time to work on their craft.

"We have a really good working relationship, and we're able to communicate effectively as far as when we're going to practice," Leagones said. "There's a great cooperative spirit between all of the coaches at Thomas Sumter. We all support each other and cheer for each other."

The biggest priority now is sustainability, especially with a sizable group of seniors and no JV. One major step in that process is hosting camps for younger students during the summer.

Leagones is amped up to hit the pitch this summer to draw in a new crowd of footballers, especially after an excellent start to the season that saw TSA win six of their first seven games.

"The early success we've had has been helpful. I think that sustained success this year will bring a lot more interest going forward," Leagones said. "That's kinda the thing I've noticed about Thomas Sumter since I've been here, kids gravitate toward things that are successful."