Sumter's quest for a return to playoffs begins today against WF
By DENNIS BRUNSON
Item Sports Editor
After winning the 4A baseball state title in 2006, the Sumter High School Gamecocks didn't even reach the state playoffs last season. A major reason for them not making it back was West Florence.
Both the Knights and SHS had two victories in Region VI last season; both of West Florence's victories came against Sumter, giving it the fourth — and final — spot from the region in the playoffs.
The Gamecocks begin the trek of trying to get back in the playoffs today when they open their region schedule against — you guessed it — West Florence. The two teams begin play at 6:30 p.m. at the SHS field.
Sumter High School head coach Brooks Shumake said his team hasn't said much about going up against the Knights, who beat SHS 5-3 and 9-2, in the region opener. He said he planned to give them something to think about after the Gamecocks concluded their game against A.C. Flora on Monday.
"Kids really do seem to have short memories," said Shumake, whose squad took a 4-2 record into the A.C. Flora contest. "We're going to remind them a little bit about it tonight. We want them to remember what transpired last year."
Sumter will send right-hander Matt Price to the mound today. He was sent to the mound against West Florence in both games last year and took the loss on both occasions. Shumake doesn't think he will have to motivate Price too much.
"I know I would have been thinking about their hitters every day of the week; I would have been having a very long year with all of that," Shumake said. "I'm going to see how Matt comes out. I know I would have a bad taste in my mouth."
In fact, Shumake admits to having a bad taste in his mouth to this day. His hope was to make the playoffs and have the since-graduated Tyler Christman, who would have been ready to pitch in the playoffs after recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Price to go in the playoffs.
"I don't know how many times I've relived last year," Shumake said. "I saw what some teams did, making runs in the playoffs, and it made me think we could have done the same thing when we would get Christman back in the playoffs. I thought we would have had a good chance with Christman and Price alternating starts."
That didn't happen though and the Gamecocks won't have an easy go of it in region play this year. Region VI proved to be particularly strong last year as Hartsville won the state title, South Florence reached the 4-team lower state tournament, Conway finished second in its district tournament and West Florence won a game in its district tournament before being eliminated.
Even though Shumake wants his team to be motivated when it faces West Florence today, his major concern is that it is playing good baseball.
"They know the importance of region games, but they're playing really well right now and we want them to treat the region games the same," said Shumake, whose team beat Lakewood 13-1 and Spring Valley 11-1 last week. We just want them to play the game of baseball, to come out and play the game the same every day. It's still the game of baseball."