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Sumter rains on P-17’s parade in handing locals a 10-4 defeat

Posted: June 7, 2017 4:14 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

NOAH RABON RAPS ONE of his two singles between the drops of rain in Post 17’s loss to visiting Sumter in Monday’s League III opener.

Even with a newfound sense of confidence derived from last year’s runner-up finish in the state American Legion tournament, Kershaw County Post 17 was still unable to get past the stumbling block in its path known as Sumter.

Last year, Sumter swept its three-game series with Post 17 en route to posting a perfect 12-0 record in League III play.

Don’t look now, but the P-15s are at it again. In knocking off KC, 10-4, on a rainy Monday night at American Legion Park, Sumter improved to 4-0 in league play while spoiling the hosts’ regular and league season opener.

KC looked to be in prime position to snap its skid against one of the state’s perennial powers by scoring three times in the bottom of the sixth to grab a 4-2 lead. Sumter, however, would rough up the hosts’ bullpen, scoring five in the seventh and tacking on three more in the eighth to pull away for the six-run victory.

The visitors’ late-game eruption came after P-17 starter Devin Beckley went the first six-plus innings, allowing two runs on three hits while fanning six batters in a 91-pitch outing. He was lifted in favor of Mikael Nelson after Beckley walked Lathan Todd to lead off  the top of the seventh. Nelson worked the seventh before giving way to Bryce Padgett, who closed things out with two innings of work.

“I don’t think the moment was too big for these guys, at all,” second-year P-17 head coach Tyler Pike said of his two relievers who are both American Legion newcomers. “Mikael Nelson has been a strike-throwing machine but had an inning where some things got away from him. I think that inning, we had four or five freebie stuff that led to four runs in a five-run innings.

“You can’t do that against anybody. You can’t do that against good teams and you can’t do that against Sumter. It’s almost a crippling effect.”

As for a KC offense, which collected nine hits against a trio of Sumter pitchers, the 17ers finally got to and would chase P-15 starter Ryan Williamson from the box in a three-run bottom of the sixth.

Trailing, 2-1, Noah Rabon led off with a single to left. Nick Butler followed by rapping his second hit of the night with an opposite field single to right. Christian Flick tried to advance the runners with a bunt which was fielded by Williamson whose throw to first sailed over the head of first baseman Andrew Twitty as Rabon came in from second with the tying run on the two-base error as Butler wound up on this base while Flick landed on second.

That was enough for Sumter boss Steve Campbell, who went to his bullpen to get Daniel Twitty who retired the first two batters he faced before Beckley hit a high chopper between the plate and third base. Beckley was safe at first as the wild throw allowed both Butler and Flick to come home with runs three and four.

Working with a two-run lead to start the seventh, Beckley walked Todd and was quickly pulled due to a climbing pitch count by Pike.

Things would spin out of control for the hosts as Sumter used the leadoff walk, an error, a balk and a hit batsman to score two runs. Cory Blackley’s RBI single to left drove in Daniel Twitty with the go-ahead run before Courtland Howard lined a two-run single to left to drive runs six and seven across.

When the dust had finally settled, the guests scored five times on four hits, two walks a balk and an error to regain the lead at 7-4 before hanging up a three spot in the eighth to add further separation to go on top, 10-4.

Daniel Twitty ran into a little trouble in the eighth as Brady White reached on a two-out error which was followed by a Justin Dorton single and a walk to Padgett which loaded the bases. After that,  Campbell who went to get Florence-Darlington Tech closer Tradd James to put out any possible flare-ups. James fanned three of the five batters he faced in his 1.1-inning stint.Sumter broke a scoreless deadlock by getting to Beckley for a pair in the top of the fourth. With one gone, Williamson with hit by a pitch and took second on a wild pitch. He scored the game’s first run on a Ryan Touchberry single to center. Touchberry would score on a wild pitch with two outs in an inning in which Beckley rang up his fifth and sixth strikeouts.Even though Beckley was well below the new American Legion pitch count guidelines, Pike stayed with his philosophy and not taxing his young pitchers’ arms. Beckley, who said he was tight starting out the night while pitching in the rain, got into a groove in spite of his fourth inning blip in which a wet ball let to several pitches missing their mark.In all, however, Pike said he liked what he saw from right-hander who signed with The Citadel last fall. Beckley is the only returning starting pitcher wthe 17ers have on their roster.“Devin looked good. He was working and staying ahead of guys and keeping them off balance,” he said. “Devin was good, as usual. That’s what we expect from Devin and that’s what Devin expects from himself. Devin looked like Devin Beckley tonight.”The 17ers got to Williamson for a run in the bottom of the fourth with Butler sending a leadoff single through the box and into center. After Flick’s sacrifice bunt advanced Butler to second, he scored from there on Dorton’s two-out liner to center to cut the lead to 2-1.KC ran itself out of possible scoring chances on the base paths by missing signals and trying to get greedy by trying to take the extra base. In the fifth, a P-17 runner was gunned down at third after trying to take two bases on a Bradwin Salmond ground out to second base. The play resulted  in an inning-ending double play. For a team which Pike said before the season likes to run once on base, the rain made for a slow track. Pike said that was no excuse, however, for some of his team’s offensive mistakes.“We have some stuff to work on,” he said. “I guess the good thing about this being the early part of the season is that we’re still trying to figure stuff out and see what we have to work on next.“We had some blunders out there on the base paths tonight but we’ll get them corrected. We’ll get them fixed.”Rabon, Butler and Dorton each had two-hit nights for the locals with Beckley and Dorton getting credited with the 17ers’ two RBIs.Pike said his offense can build on this game. “I saw a lot of good things tonight,” he said. “I saw a lot of good approaches at the plate from our guys. We just have to get better at the timely hitting part. We get one or two hits but we couldn’t string them all together and Sumter did that.”What has been the case for high school players who are still learning the ropes of American Legion baseball, for better or for worse, the final two or three frames is when plenty of the action takes place in the summertime game. Monday, Sumter scored eight of its 10 runs in the seventh and eight frames.“I hate that we play a nine-inning ballgame and it was two innings that buried us,” Pike said. 
Keeping POSTed: What is usally one of the larger regular season crowds of the year at American Legion Park, with Sumter in town, was hampered by the weather. The first half of the game was played in a steady  rain shower which moved out of the area by the sixth inning ... KC’s starting lineup on Monday included four starters from the 2016 state runners-up in Beckley, Butler, Flick and Salmond ... The three Sumter pitchers combined to strike out eight KC batters while the trio of P-17 pitchers also recorded eight ... The 17ers were without catcher Chase Galloway and outfielder Josh Boone on Monday ... Among the interested onlookers on Monday was former Post 17 head coach Will Dorton, who is now the pitching coach for Florence-Darlington Technical College which recently returned from its appearance in the National Junnior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. In addition to coming to see the 17ers, which includes his younger brother and first baseman/pitcher Justin Dorton, the older of the two Dorton brothers was also interested to see James and how he threw for the P-15s ... Caleb Larrimore led Sumter as the rightfielder collected three hits and a walk in five plate appearances. Blackley and Howard each had two-hit nights for the guests with Howard, who was  inserted into the game in the sixth inning driving in four runs in his two at-bats ... The two sides combined to collect 19 hits in the game which took a little less than three hours to complete. The only extra base hit was supplied by Sumter’s Joey Pereira who smacked a double in the top of the eighth.

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