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KC breaks out the bats in 9-6 win

Takes 2-1 lead in series

Posted: July 23, 2018 1:28 p.m.
Updated: July 24, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

ZAC BRANHAM IS MOBBED by his Post 17 teammates after crossing home plate following his two-run blast in the third inning of Thursday’s 9-6 game three win over Sumter at American Legion Park.

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If there was one thing Stephen Carmon knew  before the Kershaw County American Legion head coach took to the field for the third game of their best-of-five series with Sumter, it was Thursday’s game would be much more high-scoring  than the previous night’s 1-0 Sumter win at Riley Park.

Saying his team needed to score at least seven runs to have a chance at American Legion Park, Post 17 did their first-year head coach two better as they jumped to a 9-0 lead and held on for a 9-6 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the series which shifted to Riley Park on Friday night. 

KC sent out lefty Justin Dorton, who has not been beaten in two seasons of American Legion ball. While not having the velocity of Zac Branham or, Devin Beckley, who were Post 17’s first and second game starters, respectively, Dorton pitches to spots and put his fielders to work behind him. He followed that same script on Thursday as he improved to 7-0 on the season with five innings of 10-hit baseball in which he allowed four runs --- one earned --- while fanning just one batter.

“I knew this game would be a higher scoring game than last night,” Carmon said after his team improved to 22-6 on the season. “Dorton limits runs and when he pitches, there are a lot of balls in play. Sumter has a good hitting team and I knew they were going to score some runs so, I knew that we were going to have to score some runs tonight.

“Coming out early and scoring like we did tonight, I don’t even want to say that it gave us breathing room … I tell our guys you never have breathing room until the game’s over, especially in (Legion) baseball. These are pro player, they’re very good but they’re not professional players. When you get a six or seven run lead at this level, it’s not the same as getting a six or seven run lead in pro ball. We have to keep plugging and keep scoring.”

The loss put the P-15s (19-11) backs to the proverbial wall. A loss would end their season while a Sumter win would send the series to a final game with the winner advancing to next week’s State Championship Tournament.

Sumter head coach Curtis Johnson said he was still undecided as to who he would hand the ball to start Friday’s game. One option could be Lathan Todd, who threw just two innings and 59 pitches in Monday’s opener in KC. “I don’t know right now,” he said when asked who may take the mound for his team in game four. “We’ll just wait and see.”

Johnson sent USC-Sumter’s Andrew Twitty to the mound on Thursday and the right-hander was roughed up for three runs in both the first and third frames as the hosts jumped to a 6-0 lead which ballooned to 9-0 when Chandler Hunter allowed another three runs in the fourth.

Twitty, Johnson said, deserved a better fate. He looked to come out of the third unscathed only for a dropped two-out fly ball off the bat of William Cobb. Chase Galloway, who had three of KC’s 11 hits on the night, then doubled Cobb home with the fourth run with t booming double to left center. Zac Branham followed by depositing a Twitty offering beyond the fence in left center for Post 17’s first home run on its home field in three years.

“They came out and jumped on us early,” Johnson said. “We were right there in it but then, we made a big  two-out error in the third inning that let them score three more runs. After that, I’ve got to give my kids credit, they came back and made it a game.”

After having been held to three hits by Rylan Williamson in game two, KC jumped on Twitty, who was working on two full days’ rest, for three hits in the bottom of the first. Jake Laffin reached on a two-out fielders’ choice and went to second on Cobb’s single. Both runners came in when Galloway went the other way with a triple to right center. Galloway made it 3-0 when he scored on a wild pitch.

Galloway, whose average hovered around the .190 mark throughout most of the regular season, has caught fire at the plate in the playoffs. Thursday, he was a home run short of the cyle while driving in five runs.

“I told Chase to keep plugging. Last year, he hit over .500 (.526) for us,” Carmon said of Galloway. “He’s a good hitter and good hitters go through slumps. I told him when I started college (at USC-Aiken), I started 0-for-30 and I ended up being freshman of the year in the Peach Belt Conference. 

“I told him to keep plugging because he’s still going to be in there. He’s been working on his swing and, he’s figured it out.”

After scoring three unearned runs in the third, KC tacked on three more in the fourth off Hunter.

Consecutive one-out base hits from Bradwin Salmond and Todd Mattox got things going. With two gone, Cobb sent an opposite field single to right to drive in Salmond with the seventh run.  Mattox and Cobb would both score on Galloway’s two-out, two run single to left field which gave his five RBI in three at-bats.

Sumter got to Dorton for a solo run in the fourth as Williamson sent a leadoff single to right and scored from second on Todd’s one-out single to right. That would be it for that inning, however, as the guests left runners on the corners.

An inning later, the P-15s sent nine batters to the plate while scoring three times to cut the deficit to a manageable 9-4.

The rally started after a double play ball as Bobby Crisp worked his way for a walk. Williamson got on with an error on a ground ball to shortstop. Both runners scored as Joey Pereira sent a double to left center while Pereira made it a 9-4 game when he came in from second on Todd’s single to right.

Leading by five, Carmon pulled Dorton in favor or Hunter Coleman.

“He just threw the ball away, away and kept us off balance,” Johnson said of Dorton’s mound stint. “He did a good job. He competed. He’s a lot like his brother (College of Charleston pitching coach Will Dorton.) Their stuff is a lot different but, they both compete their tails off.”

Coleman was greeted by a Trey Yates leadoff single in the sixth and took second on a wild pitch. Jacob Holladay reached on a two-base error while allowed Yates to score while ending Coleman’s night in favor of  Jay Lynch who retired the first three batters he faced.

Sumter threw a scare into the 17ers in the seventh. With one gone, Pereira walked and took both second and third on passed balls. A walk to Todd followed before Hunter hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Pereira with the sixth run.  Yates kept the inning alive with a double to center to put runners in scoring position with two outs for Holladay, whose liner to right was flagged down by Josh Boone.

Both teams collected 11 hits led by three from Noah Rabon, Cobb and Mattox .

Having fallen into an early hole changed with way Johnson worked his pitching staff on Thursday.

“We tried to piece it together and try and keep everybody available,” he said. “Daniel Twitty is a college pitcher. He pitched at USC-Sumter and was in their weekend rotation. We wanted to get him a start and he went through his routine and he gave us a chance and he threw pretty well. We just made a big error with two outs (in the third) and after that, they scored three runs.”

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