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Last team in proving to be a tough out
17ers open state tourney with back-to-back wins
run
BROCK ROBINSON ROUNDS THIRD and heads home with the first run in Kershaw Countys 9-4 win over Chapin-Newberry in Sundays second round of the state American Legion tourney at Riley Park in Sumter. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I photo

S.C. American Legion

State Tournament

Tuesday’s games

 

Game 12 - Winner Game 9 vs. Loser Game 11 (3 p.m.)

Game 13 - Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11 (7 p.m.)

 

(Note: If three teams remain after game 13, the winner of Game 11 automatically draws a bye into Game 14.)

 

Wednesday’s game(s)

 

Game 14 - Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13 (10 a.m.)

Game 15 - (if necessary)  Will be needed only if winner of Game 11 loses game 13 or winner of Game 12 wins Game 14. Deciding game will start 30 minutes following completion of Game 14.)

 

The South Carolina state champion will advance to the Southeast Region Tournament to be played at McRary Park in Asheboro, N.C. on Aug 3 - 7.

SUMTER --- All summer long, Will Abbott has been hamstrung by a request from The Citadel baseball coaching staff that their incoming freshman only pitch five innings per week for the Kershaw County American Legion baseball team.

The restrictions were taken off when Post 17 played its way into the state tournament.

Unchained for the first time since the completion of his Camden High career in May, the 6-foot-4 Abbott worked eight-plus innings of five-hit baseball in helping keep his team perfect through two state tourney games with a 9-4 win over defending American Legion World Series champion Chapin-Newberry on Sunday night at Riley Park.

The five-run win came over a C-N squad which swept KC in three games less than two weeks earlier in the second round of the Lower State playoffs. It also came on the heels of Saturday morning’s 11-6 victory over Rock Hill, the top seed from the Upper State.

KC faced Florence Post 1 Monday night at Riley Park in a battle between the only unbeatens left in the eight-team field which will be pared in half four by today. The winner of the KC vs. Florence contest is scheduled to play tonight at 7 p.m. with the loser in the 3 p.m. elimination game.

Post 17, which had to win two play-in games last Wednesday in Florence in order to get to Sumter, has been on a tear since dropping its best-of-five series with C-N. Having Abbott available, sans The Citadel-imposed limitations, added to that momentum.

Abbott three 132 pitches before being lifted in favor of T.J. White following an Andrew Livingston single which opened the top of the ninth. Upon his exit, the right-hander fanned 10 batters while issuing only two walks along the way.

A smiling Abbott said he was ready to go however long he was needed and was champing at the bit to pitch without an innings limit hovering above his head.

“I was really excited. My arm was feeling good,” he said of Sunday’s start. “I feel like when I get to the fifth inning, I’m just getting my good stuff going. It was good to go longer tonight.”

Abbott allowed three earned runs against a Post 193/24 which scored an unearned run in the top of the first to grab a quick lead. At no point in the game, however, was Abbott more dominant that after C-N cut the deficit to 9-4 and had runners on second and third with one gone in the eighth. 

Facing the meat of the C-N order, Abbott got Tyler White looking for the first out before getting cleanup hitter Ryan Stoudemire to go down swinging. When Chandler Todd could not catch up with an Abbott offering, it completed the hat trick as the KC lead stood at five runs.

Abbott pleaded with head coach Tyler Pike to let him finish what he started. The first-year P-17 boss let the righty open the ninth before coming to get Abbott who begrudgingly handed the ball over to Pike who passed it on to White who faced three batters in closing a game for the second time in as many days and picked up the win on Saturday with 4.2 innings of sterling relief work.

“It was tough,” Abbott said with a smile when asked about having to give the ball to Pike. “I wanted to go the distance but my pitch count was getting up there and I have to take care of my arm. (Pike) was going to pull me after the eighth inning and then, he told me that I had one more batter left.”

Pike said he was not going to let Abbott talk his way into trying to get the complete game.

“Will’s a bulldog, I guess, literally and figuratively,” Pike said of Abbott who will stay a Bulldog at The Citadel. “That’s exactly the way he plays because he’s a tough, tough, tough kid.

“I thought I was going to have to knock him out and take him off the mound when I went out to go get him. He did not want to come out. He’s just that type of kid; he wants to battle to the end. The way he was rolling, the way he was throwing strikes and getting people out … he’s a kid who gets stronger as the game goes on.”

In winning their fourth straight game, the 17ers (15-8) did their damage in scoring all nine runs in the first four frames against C-N which went through four pitchers in the first five innings.

C-N scored a run in the first, aided by a throwing error to second base on Blake Smith steal of second. Smith who led off the game with an opposite field single to left scored from third on a Peyton Spangler ground out.

The 17ers stormed back by getting to USC commit Corey Stone for four runs in their first crack on offense.

Brock Robinson touched off the rally with a leadoff single to right. Nick Butler was called on the bunt Robinson to second but Stone, a lefty, could not come up with the ball cleanly as the 17ers were in business with runners on first and second with no outs. Josh Hernandez then lined an RBI single to center to plate Robinson with the tying run. A walk to Bradwin Salmond loaded the bases with no outs against the struggling Stone.

Devin Beckley then lined a two-run, full count single to left to make it 3-1. A Ross Hough single to right brought Salmond in with the fourth run as Abbott was staked to a quick three-run cushion.

“That helped a lot,” Abbott said of his offense giving him the early lead. “I thought I could work with a one-run (deficit) but then, we scored four runs in the first.”

KC tacked on a fifth run in the second as Butler drew a one-out walk which closed the book on Stone as Trey Huber made his way to the mound. The lefty was greeted by Hernandez whose fly ball to left center hit a jet stream and glanced off the top of the wall for an RBI double on a high-arching drive which came a couple feet short of leaving the spacious premises at Riley.

Huber worked his way out of more trouble by getting a bases loaded, ground ball out to close the inning.

C-N would get two runs back in the third to cut the lead to 5-3 only to have P-17 answer with two runs in its half of the third which opened with a Nick Stokes single followed by John Bailey’s taking a Huber fastball off the foot.

After Stokes was thrown out at third on a Robinson fielders’ choice, Butler burned centerfielder Colin Santiago by sending a booming triple to dead center which drove in Bailey and Robinson for the 7-3 lead.

Butler’s three-bagger was the result of a nine-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off a pair of two-strike offerings before sending Huber’s pitch sailing toward the 400-foot marker in center.

“That was awesome,” Pike said. “Nick just missed a double right down the (third base) line before that. It looked like it was right on the line before hooking just a little bit foul. Then, he hit another foul ball right down the line. He knew he was locked in and then, on the next pitch, he absolutely crushed it. That was good to see.”

Butler’s triple resulted in the exit of Huber in favor of Alex Ellison whose back-to-back strikeouts kept the deficit at 7-3, temporarily.

The fourth was not as kind to Ellison who walked Beckley to kick things off. With one gone, Christian Flick dropped in a single to shallow center. A walk to Stokes and a strikeout brought Robinson to the plate with the bags jammed with two outs. The Lugoff-Elgin graduate and USC-Lancaster signee hit a scorching liner which hugged the third base line to bring Beckley and Flick home with runs eight and nine as the lead grew to 9-3 which was more than enough for Abbott.

Abbott faced 14 batters over the course of the fourth through seventh innings, getting an inning-ending double play on a grounder to Hernandez at third who stepped on the bag before sending a missile to Beckley at first to gun down Todd to get out of the frame.

C-N closed the gap to 9-4 in the eighth as Santiago worked his way for a leadoff walk before Smith singled to right. An error on what looked to be a double play ground ball by Spangler allowed Santiago to score. When the guests had runners on second and third, though, Abbott still had plenty left in the tank as he effectively shut the door with three straight punch-outs.

The 17ers collected a dozen hits off the quartet of C-N pitchers which was capped by Kyle McRary working the final four innings.

Each KC batter had one hit on the night with Hernandez collecting three while driving in two runs. Robinson added a pair of hits with two RBI for the locals.

After having lost three times to C-N less than two weeks earlier, Pike said his team has taken a different approach which has been paying off.

“We’re throwing strikes. Will went out there and threw strikes,” he said. “We’re also much more patient at the plate. In those three games with (C-N), one thing I was preaching to our guys was that we were not patient at the plate. We were swinging at everything and helping their pitchers out and they had low pitch counts. It was great to see our guys be patient and be rewarded for it.”

The 17ers are playing with house money after getting a second and then a third chance to qualify for the state tourney after host Sumter played its way in rather than getting a free entry pass into the event.

“It was those two comeback victories in those two games we had to play in Florence last week. It all started there,” Pike said of what paved the way to a 2-0 start in Sumter. “We got swept by Chapin. They put it on us in all three games. 

“There was something different about these boys in those two games up in Florence. It just turned things around. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter who we play we just have to take care of ourselves first and let the rest take care of itself.”

 

Staying hot: Hernandez, a UNC-Wilmington signee, entered the state tournament with a team-best .462 batting average. In two games over the weekend, he collected five hits in nine at-bats with one walk and two RBI.

 

Classy gesture: Oftentimes, the first people to congratulate a pitcher after an outing such as the one turned in by Abbott are his teammates who made their way out of the dugout to greet him. Before he could get that far, C-N head coach Daniel Gregory --- who also serves as the team’s third base coach --- stopped Abbott on his walk toward the dugout and gave him a fist bump in a classy display of sportsmanship.

 

Greenville forfeits: Post 17’s game with Chapin-Newberry started a few minutes ahead of its scheduled 7 p.m. first pitch, a rarity on four-game days. The reason for things running ahead of schedule could be traced back to the slated 9 a.m. elimination game between Sumter and Greenville.

Greenville had three of its 12 players return home following its 12-1 loss to Florence on Saturday. Only one of those players returned to Sumter for Sunday’s game leaving Post 3 with 10 available players which is not enough to play in a state tournament game as per American Legion rules which state that a team must have 12 players in uniform in order for a contest to start or else, result in a forfeit.

With that rule in the books, Sumter was awarded a 9-0 victory against Greenville whose coach, reportedly, wanted to play what would have been a “friendly” game against Sumter with his 10 players only for the request to have been dismissed.

 

Other second round results: After Sumter’s win without throwing a pitch, which results in Post 15 saving pitching, Inman knocked Rock Hill out of the tourney with a 5-2 win before Florence held off Greenwood, 5-4, in Sunday’s third game.