For five innings, Devin Beckley worked his way around three hit batters and a trio of walks in carrying a no-hitter and a 2-0 lead over Sumter into the sixth inning.
Then, in the top of the sixth, things came undone for the Kershaw County right-hander.
Stringing together three consecutive singles, the visiting P-15s scored four runs on as many hits while being helped along by a pair of walks and two KC errors. Sumter would hang on after that and escape American Legion Park with a 4-3 victory over Post 17 in a Tuesday night League III contest.
The win was the second in as many nights for Sumter (11-0 in League III) over KC (3-3). On Monday, the P-15s drubbed the 17ers, 10-0, in eight innings. It would be a different story 24 hours later.
Not only did Sumter do all its offensive damage in the sixth frame but it only get two more hits the rest of the way off submarine-throwing reliever Ross Hough, who went the final three frames. KC out-hit the guests, 11-5.
Sumter head coach Steve Campbell said he has seen his team, which wrapped up the league crown with the win, use the big inning in several recent victories.
“That’s the way it’s been lately here,” he said. “I don’t know what else we can do. We’ve been working in practice on it but I’ll take it; a win’s a win.”
After being stymied by Beckley, who fanned five batters in the first five frames, Sumter was able to get to him the third time through the order. The P-15s stranded six runners in their first five at-bats including leaving the bases loaded in the third as Beckley battled control problems.
Sumter’s rally started with a Dawson Price one-out single to left which was followed by Rylan Williamson’s double which skirted the left field line that put runners on second and third. Ryan Touchberry then made it three hits in a row with a run-scoring single to right. The slightest muff in the outfield allowed Williamson to come around from second with the tying run.
After getting a strikeout for the second out, Beckley walked number nine batter Ryan Moore. With Touchberry having stolen second and having advanced to third on a wild pitch, Beckley threw a pickoff throw to first in the dirt. Touchberry read the throw and took home on the one-hopper to give Sumter a 3-2 lead. After swiping second, Moore scored from second on Brandon Spittle’s RBI single to right to make it 4-2.
Beckley would wiggle out of further trouble by getting Jordan Holladay on an inning-ending ground out. It also marked the end of the night for Beckley, a AAA All-State selection this past season for Camden High School.
“He wasn’t running out of gas,” said first-year Post 17 head coach Tyler Pike as to Beckley’s sixth inning troubles. “I think he just hits little patches here and there where he loses it for a second.
“Devin’s great. His stuff is great and they struggled to hit him. When he threw strikes, he was effective but the five walks and three hit batsmen tonight killed him. When you look at it at the end of the day, it’s brutal because if he throws strikes, he’s probably getting these guys out and we’re out of the inning.”
KC got to Sumter starter Caleb Larrimore for solo runs in the second and third innings to give Beckley a thin 2-0 cushion.
In the second, Christian Flick lined a one-out single to left, moved to third on Hough’s single, his first of three hits in this game. Flick would score on a wild pitch.
An inning later, John Bailey reached on a leadoff infield single, was bunted to second by Nick Butler before advancing to third on Cam Holley’s first of three singles on the night. Bailey made it 2-0 when he came across on Bradwin Salmond’s one-out sacrifice fly to right.
Larrimore would allow one more run which came in the seventh when Beckley rapped a leadoff single to left before being bunted to second by Bailey. Consecutive one-out singles off the bats of Butler and Holley made it 4-3 with the second of those two singles plating Beckley before Campbell brought Tradd James in from third base to take over for Larrimore.
After batting in the nine hole earlier in the season, Holley was moved to second in the order and has continued to swing a hot bat in his new role.
“The past several games,” Pike said of his starting second baseman, “Holley’s put the bat on the ball for us. We had him in the nine hole and it was more strategy of having him at the nine spot and having someone who gets on base when the top of the order hits.
“Cam’s been great all year. He’s putting the bat on the ball and he’s playing good defense. He’s been one of our most consistent players. He just keeps doing his thing and keeps rolling.”
James got Salmond on a ground out to Moore at second for the second out in the seventh before walking William Cobb to fill the bags for Flick whose sharply hit liner to third ended the threat with the hosts leaving the bags jammed.
The 17ers ended the night leaving 10 runners on the base paths with half of those in scoring position. That did not sit well with Pike who said his team failed to come up with the big hit.
“Baseball is all about timely hitting. The team that does that is going to win and Sumter has done that a lot better than we have done that in these first two games,” he said. “You look at the ball Flick hit with two outs in the seventh. If he hits that ball a foot higher or, a foot to the left, that’s two runs and who knows, it could have been a different ballgame. It is what it is though. That’s what makes this game great.”
KC threatened in the eighth only to leave runners on the corners as James worked his way around singles from Hough and Beckley while strike out the side. He then struck out two batters in the ninth to preserve the victory with a 2.2-inning save.
“We figured (Larrimore) was a little bit tired so we took him out,” Campbell said. “Tradd came in and did a great job for us which was just what we needed.”
Pike said Larrimore was able to keep his batters guessing thanks to pitching backwards with the off-speed stuff setting up the fastball.
“He was good,” Pike said of the Sumter righty. “He was throwing his breaking ball for a strike and it was tough. He’s not a real hard thrower but you don’t need to be when you’re throwing that breaking ball for a strike like he was; that made his fastball seem that much faster.
“That was the difference tonight. They threw strikes and we hit little patches where we struggled a bit to throw strikes.”
With one more League III game left and the league title already sewn up, Campbell said now is not the time for his team to be looking ahead to the postseason.
“My focus now is on Thursday night,” he said. “We have to play (KC) again. They have a good ballclub and they’re not just going to roll over for us; that’s just the way it is.
“We come to play and they come to play. Every time these two teams get together, it’s a great series and when they come to Riley Park on Thursday night, they’re going to come and play as hard as they did tonight.”
Keeping POSTed: The 17ers were minus the services of Will Abbott, Brock Robinson and Josh Hernandez, who were all playing for the South Carolina Select Team in a best-of-three series with their North Carolina counterparts in Cary, N.C., on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Like Abbott, a Camden High graduate, Robinson, who graduated from Lugoff-Elgin last month, was a late replacement for the game which could be the final one between the two states… Salmond, KC’s regular starting centerfielder, was moved to shortstop with Robinson away, while Bailey, who has played on the corners in the outfield this season, shifted over to center … KC fell to third place in the five-team League III race as Orangeburg downed Manning-Santee, 10-4, to improve to 4-4 in the circuit heading into Thursday’s game. Manning-Santee sits in fourth spot at 2-5 with Dalzell-Shaw bringing up the rear at 0-8 … Post 17 will be at home twice next week. A key three-game series with Orangeburg opens on the road on Monday before game two comes to American Legion Park in Camden on Tuesday. Friday night, Dalzell-Shaw will be in town for a 7:30 p.m. make-up game.