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17ers' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Sumter

Posted: June 7, 2011 2:34 p.m.
Updated: June 8, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A night which had a controversial start ended with Sumter holding off a late-game Kershaw County rally as visiting Post 15 left American Legion Park with a 5-4 victory Post 17 Monday night in a battle of League III American Legion unbeatens.

First-year KC (4-1) head coach Curtis Johnson fanned the flames against his former team when, after Zach Sherrill’s two-out double in the top of the first, Johnson came out with a page from the rule book and protested that Sherrill’s bat was illegal. After a meeting between the two umpires who read the rule, they brought in another fellow umpire who was in attendance at the game as a fan. After some five minutes of discussion, the bat was removed from the game and Sherrill was ruled out to end the inning.

Johnson said he noticed that Sherrill was using a non-approved bat when he took in Sumter’s game with Dalzell-Shaw last Wednesday.

“That’s a bat that wasn’t legal in high school; an Easton Stealth Speed composite,” Johnson said. “I knew it was illegal and I was prepared when he came to the plate with it tonight. When (Sherrill) hit a double, it was the right time to do it.”

For his part, Post 15 (5-0) head coach Wallie Jones said he was not shocked by the tactic.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “We asked the umpires to come over and take a look at the bats before the game and say, ‘If you don’t see a bat that’s (legal), get it out of here.’ They looked at all of our bats and didn’t (throw one out.)

“I guess we’ll know what to do next time.”

The illegal bat proved to be a footnote to a game in which the combination of three Sumter pitchers --- starter Tyler A. Smith, Josh Kisamore and J. Tyler Smith --- combined to strike out 20 Post 17 batters. Tyler A. Smith, a left-hander, fanned 12 batters in a six-inning stint in which he surrendered one hit; a clean single to center off the bat of Blake Outlaw with two outs in the bottom of the sixth with the guests holding a 5-0 lead.

Sumter pitchers set the KC side down on strikes in four innings. Of the 20 strikeouts, 16 were swinging third strikes. That, Johnson said, is a situation which his batters must and will remedy.

“Their (pitchers) came through. All three of their guys came through and just threw fastballs by us,” he said. “We struck out way too many times on the fastball. They just came out and threw fastballs by us.

“We have to work hard on that and try to hit the top half of the ball and make contact. If we make contact, we have a pretty good shot to win.”

Jones said Kisamore’s two-thirds of an inning stint aside, he liked what he saw from the lefty-righty throwing combo of Tyler A. Smith and J. Tyler Smith.

“It was an excellent outing,” Jones said of Tyler A. Smith’s (2-0) performance. “We would have liked for him to have gone seven (innings), but we got six out of him. My next guy (Kisamore) didn’t have his stuff and gave up three or four runs, which got them back in the ballgame. We had to fight for our life the rest of the way.”

Smith opened the game by getting himself out of a first inning jam in which he issued consecutive walks to Stephen Boneparte and then, Ty Robinson to open the game. After a strikeout, the pair moved into scoring position on a balk. Smith regrouped, however, ringing up his second and third punchouts of the inning to get out of the first unscathed.

“Second and third with one out and we couldn’t score a run,” Johnson said. “Our four-hole hitter has got to make contact there. That was big. That was a run that we could have scored there and it ended up being huge. But that’s baseball. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Smith had his string of 17 straight batters retired come to an end when he walked Robinson with two gone in the sixth. Outlaw followed with a line drive single through the box to end the no-hit bid. With runners on the corners, Outlaw got in a rundown between first and second. Robinson stepped too far off third base on the play, however, and was gunned down by first baseman Andrew Reardon’s throw to Callahan Kirkhart.

KC’s offensive struggles continued early against Kisamore, who came on in relief to start the seventh, inheriting a 5-0 lead.

 After issuing a two-out walk to Will Dorton, Jake Ansley singled to right. That was followed by an RBI single to left by Will Hough. Ansley made it a 5-2 game, scoring on a wild pitch before Dillon Morrow’s double to left plated Hough while chasing Kisamore from the mound in favor of J. Tyler Smith.

Smith was greeted by Boneparte’s two-strike single to right which drove Morrow home, cutting the lead to 5-4. Smith got out of further trouble with an inning-ending strikeout.

The seventh could have been even bigger had a KC runner not gotten picked off first base; one of three such occurrences on the night.

Johnson said that once his team got the first hit from Outlaw, the P-17 batters seemed to be more relaxed and had better at-bats.

“Hitting’s contagious, you always hear that. It showed tonight,” he said. “Once we got that first hit, it got contagious and we were right there.”

Sumter did all its damage against KC starter Scott Baldwin in the first five frames and used a pair of long balls to give Smith a five-run cushion to work with.

It was J. Tyler Smith who gave the guests a 1-0 lead when he sent a two-out solo shot beyond the wall in left in the second.

An inning later, Taylor McFaddin lined a one-out single through the box. A two-out Cam Martin triple to right center made it a 2-0 game. Martin would make it 3-0, coming home on Sherrill’s RBI single to left.

With Smith cruising along and throwing blanks at the hosts, he would get two more runs of support when Blake Graham led off the fifth with a single and trotted home on Sherrill’s one-out bomb to right center to increase the lead to 5-0.

Baldwin worked seven solid innings. The right-hander gave up five runs while scattering eight hits with three strikeouts. Johnson said his starter deserved a better fate than he received.

“I thought Scottie threw great tonight. It’s unfortunate that he gave up two long balls and it’s unfortunate that we got beat,” he said. “But I thought we played hard and I thought that we played well. We just missed too many signs; it’s something we’re still working on and it’s something we’ll get better at.”

Baldwin gave way to fellow righty, Will Dorton, after surrendering a leadoff single to Sherrill in the eighth.

The P-15s would load the bases with no outs before KC got a force play at the plate for the first out of the eighth. One batter later, Baldwin hauled in Will Smith’s fly ball to right field and delivered a strike to catcher Brandon Faulkenberry to get Reardon at the plate to complete the double play and keep this a one-run game.

KC threatened in the ninth, as Will Hough and Boneparte were each hit by Smith offerings to put men on first and second with two outs before Smith ended the game with the 20th strikeout of the night.

Sumter out-hit KC, 12-6. And while the Post 17 offense was a far cry from that which came into this contest having averaged 12 runs per game in their first four outings, Johnson liked the way his team hung in this one until the hits started to fall against a trio of college-bound Post 15 pitchers.

After having played three lopsided games in their first four games of the season, Johnson said playing in a tight game will benefit his team in the long run.

“Anytime that you play a close baseball game,” Johnson said, “it helps because you’ve been there. It’s always good to play a close game. Tonight, we were right there with Sumter. I think if we play well, we’re going to be right there in the ballgame with them every time and I think we’ll have shots to win. That’s what we did tonight.

“My guys gave themselves a chance to win. We had the tying run on second base and the winning run on first. We gave ourselves a shot to win; that’s what we have to do.”

Keeping POSTed: What was easily the largest crowd of Post 17’s first three home games took in Monday’s contest at American Legion Park … In other League III games from Monday, Dalzell-Shaw kept Hartsville winless with a 10-0 victory while Manning-Santee run-ruled Cheraw, 12-2 … After the first round of league play, Sumter leads the circuit with a 5-0 record followed by Post 17 (4-1), Manning-Santee (3-2), Dalzell-Shaw (2-3), Cheraw (1-4) and Hartsville (0-5) … Johnson was planning to hand the ball to Grayson King to start Tuesday’s game at Dalzell-Shaw. He said he may give Jake Ansley his first start at Hartsville on Thursday with Andrew Ansley a possibility to start Friday’s home game with Manning-Santee. But, as Johnson has said from day one, nothing is etched in stone when it comes to his probable starters. “We have to win baseball game, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.

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