When William Fudger stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the fourth inning of Sumter High School's baseball game against Stratford in the championship round of the District VI tournament in the 4A state playoffs Thursday, he had only one thought in mind.
"I didn't want to make two outs in the same inning," Fudger said.
Instead, Fudger launched a 3-run home run over the left field fence to complete an 8-run fourth inning that lifted the Gamecocks to a 9-6 victory at the SHS field and into the 4A lower state tournament for the third straight season.
Sumter, now 20-6 on the season will travel to North Charleston Saturday to face Fort Dorchester in the first round of the 4-team lower state tournament. The Patriots are 20-8 after beating Berkeley 4-1 Wednesday to win the District VIII tournament.
Sumter trailed 6-0 when it came to the plate in its half of the fourth, and it looked as though it would be playing another game to decide the district title. The Gamecocks cut the lead to 6-5 before Fudger came to the plate for the second time, having popped out on the infield to start the inning against Stratford right-hander Kyle Jordan.
Fudger, batting second in the Sumter order, sent the ball over the left field fence, touching off a huge celebration from the Gamecock bench and fans.
"I went up there looking for a fastball since there were two outs," said Fudger, a senior who hit his first high school home run and his first homer since playing in the SKIB 11-12 year old league. "I wanted to find some way to get the run in. I got the pitch and got a good swing on it. I knew I had hit it good, but I didn't watch it; then it cleared the fence."
"Fudger has improved dramatically this season," said Sumter head coach Brooks Shumake. "I told him at the start of the year he needed to step up and be a player for us. He's really improved toward the end of the year and shown an aggressive confidence at the plate."
Jordan rolled through the first three innings for Stratford, the defending state champion, limiting Sumter to one hit. It looked as though the fourth would bring more of the same when Fudger popped out, however, Travis Witherspoon reached on an error by shortstop Matt Gunther and that opened the door for SHS.
Jordan hit Matt Price with a pitch, and eighth-grader Stephen Curtis broke the ice for Sumter, lining a single back through the middle to drive in Witherspoon and make it 6-1. Grayson Tanner followed with a line drive that Knights third baseman Alex Latsko jumped into the air to snag for the second out, almost doubling off courtesy runner Tyler Smith at third.
Ward singled to drive in Smith before Robert Benenhaley doubled to the gap in right-center to score two more runs and make it 6-4. Tony Micklon reached on a throwing error by Latkso, and Tyler Cappelmann followed with a run-scoring single to set the stage for Fudger.
All of Sumter's runs in the inning were unearned thanks to three errors by the Knights. Still, the Gamecocks took advantage of them to the tune of five hits.
"That's part of the game," Stratford head coach John Chalus said of Sumter's rally. "We started kicking the ball around, and we've had some problems with that. We had games where we weren't able to put everything together; we've been up and down all year.
"Sumter put together a nice rally though. They deserved to win this game."
After a 4-1 record to start the regular season, the Sumter High School varsity baseball team opens Region VI-4A play today on the road at Hartsville in a 6:30 p.m. at the Hartsville stadium in Kelleytown.
Hartsville is not only a familiar opponent to the Gamecocks, who took both games from Hartsville last year, it is very particularly familiar to SHS head coach Brooks Shumake. Shumake was a star baseball player at Hartsville before going on to play at Clemson. Shumake is just worried about getting the region win, regardless of the opponent.
"It's the same old thing (with Hartsville)," Shumake said. "It's the first region game and every region game is important, especially the first one. We know they've got a good ball team. They've improved a lot, but we hope to give them all they can handle."
Shumake said his team's strength so far this year has been in the pitching staff. That being said, Tyler Christman is getting the start against the Red Foxes.
"Tyer is 1-1 on the season," Shumake said of the junior right-hander. "He is one of our two best pitchers with Allen Caldwell. We are going to go with Tyler (today) and go with Caldwell against Conway (another region game) on Friday.
"We have to improve on hitting," Shumake added. "Our pitching has been good, but offense is where we need to improve."
In his last outing, Christman took a loss at the hands of Spring Valley. Christman gave up three runs in six innings as the Gamecocks lost 3-2.
Bruz Crowson/The Item Sumter's Tiffany McMillian, right, clears a hurdle during her leg of the 4x100 meter shuttle hurdle in the Sumter Optimist Relays Saturday at Sumter Memorial Stadium. Sumter finished third in the hurdle event.
Carl Baker said he felt good about both his boys and girls Sumter High School track and field teams entering the season. Their performances in the 31st running of the Sumter Optimist Relays at Sumter Memorial Stadium Saturday offered the head coach confirmation.
The Sumter girls tied with Summerville for the most top three finishes in the relay-style format used for all events, and the SHS boys finished with a total of seven top threes.
"I think we're going to be very competitive this year," Baker said. "As I said earlier, this is the most comfortable I think I've ever felt going into a season. To have this kind of performance with some of the powerhouse teams in here was also good for us."
The girls portion of the meet included such 4A standouts as Summerville, Northwestern and Dutch Fork, all of which finished in the top 10 of last year's state meet. Some of the top boys teams included Stratford, Northwestern, Richland Northeast, Dutch Fork and Lower Richland.
The Lady Gamecocks won three events — the long jump, the 800-meter sprint medley and the junior varsity 4x100 relay. Andrea Jackson, last year's 4A triple jump champion, combined with Frances Fields to win the long jump at 34 feet, 1 inch. Jackson was also on the third-place 4x100 shuttle hurdle tema with Erica Butler, Latosha Woods and Tiffany McMillian, paired with Woods to finish third in the high jump and with McMillian to finish second in the triple jump.
"Andrea Jackson just had an outstanding performance for us today," Baker said.
The 800 sprint medley team of Tasia Holmes, Fields, Jasmine Alston and Tyeshia McDuffie won in 1 minute, 53 seconds. The winning JV 4x100 teams of Tia Woods, Brittany Ingram, Holmes and McDuffie won in 53.13 seconds.
The varsity 4x100 team of Alston, Kendra Yates, Monigue Woods and Fields finished second, while the 4x800 team of Candace Sapp, Kathleen Coleman, Lakimbra Porcher and Shquanna Brown finished third.
The Sumter boys also had three first-place finishes — the long jump, high jump and 4x100. Brian Leneau and Marquis Mack combined to win the long jump at 40-6, while Jacques Watson and Dontae Middleton won the high jump at 11-10. The 4x100 team won in a time of 43.20. The team included Kendrick Pressley, D.J Brunson and first-time senior track performers Kelton Tindal and Willie Davis.
"It was good to see the new kids like Kelton and Willie do well today," Baker said. "You know they're good athletes, but you don't know how well they'll run for you until they get out here. They showed today they were pretty good runners."
Mack and Brunson combined to finish second in the triple jump, while the 4x800 team of Jacques Blanding, Stevie Brunson, Antoinne Gibson and Cayce Wells also finished second. Steve Brunson, Gibson, Kendell Session and Dustin Hillard formed the third-place distance medley team. Sumter's JV 4x100 team of Brian Wilson, Teyan Singleton, Dominic Simon and Evans Sanders also finished third.
Bruz Crowson / The Item Sumter High School pitcher Matt Price delivers a pitch during the Gamecock's 7-5 win over Richland Northeast Friday at the SHS Field.
By TOM O'HARE Special To The Item
Sumter High School's varsity baseball team survived a scary seventh inning to claim a 7-5 victory over Richland Northeast at the SHS field Friday.
After losing their first game of the year at Spring Valley Thursday by a 3-2 count, Gamecocks head coach Brooke Shumake felt it was important for his squad to bounce back against the Cavaliers.
"I think the goal of any program is to always avoid losing two games in a row," said Shumake. "It was very important for us to get back out here and win tonight's game."
The Gamecocks' win did not come without some anxious moments though. RNE trailed 7-3 when it came to bat in the top of the seventh inning, and Sumter starting pitcher Matt Price seemed to have the Cavaliers well under control. Price retired Jake Mendiola on a ground ball to shortstop to start the inning, but after he walked the next two batters, Shumake replaced Price on the mound with Tyler Cappelmann.
Bruz Crowson / The Item Andrea Jackson, who won state in last year's triple jump, will be returning to the Lady Gamecocks' track and field team, who begin this year's season Saturday with the 31st annual Optimist Relays.
Sumter High School will open its track and field season Saturday by playing host to the 31st annual Optimist Relays, and boys and girls head coach Carl Baker likes it that way.
With the meet being a non-scoring event and affording so many athletes the opportunity to compete due to its relay format, it gives Baker a chance to look up and down his rosters to see who might be able to help the teams as the season progresses.
"Even though we give medals for first, second and third place, the pressure is off the kids," Baker said of relays, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Sumter Memorial Stadium. "This gives the young kids a chance to work with the veterans and gives them a chance to see what they are capable of doing against tough competition.
"We like to mix (the teams) with veterans and young kids. They can show the young ones how to compete on this level. This is a strong starting point for us."
Both the boys and girls teams will face some strong competition. Among the girls teams participating are Summerville, Northwestern and Dutch Fork, which finished fourth, sixth and 10th, respectively, in last year's 4A state meet. Sumter finished 11th. Also in the meet is Lamar, which finished third in the 1A meet.
The boys teams will be led by Stratford, which finished third in the 4A meet, and Northwestern, which was ninth. Lamar won the 1A title.
Other schools expected to field one or both teams in the meet are Batesburg-Leesville, Camden, Greer, Irmo, Lower Richland, Lugoff-Elgin, Richland Northeast, Rock Hill, South Florence, St. James, West Florence and Wilson.
The Sumter boys team will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing finish to the 2005 season. Despite winning their second straight Region VI title and sending 21 athletes to the state qualifier meet, not one of the Gamecocks advanced to the state meet.
Keith Gedamke / The Item Sumter High School’s Richard Hampton (42) and Jaywaan Parker (23) trap Goose Creek’s Brandon Wright during the Gamecocks’ 56-53 loss in the 4A lower state championship game Saturday at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
ORANGEBURG — Nathan Livesay had every reason to gush about the Sumter High School boys basketball team.
The Gamecocks reached the 4A lower state title game this season, where it lost to the Goose Creek Gators 56-53 Saturday at the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High gymnasium.
After all, when Livesay became the head coach of the Gamecocks three years ago, the idea of the program getting to the point of being one win away from playing for the state title seemed light years away. For that matter, the same could be said about the start of this season.
Livesay, though, didn’t wax poetic. He was indeed proud of his team; it could be seen on his face. However, his words gave the impression of someone who wasn’t satisfied and thought more could be achieved.
“We’ve definitely made a step in the right direction,” said Livesay, whose team ended its season with a 23-5 record. “(Seniors) Kelton (Tindal), Richard (Hampton) and Travis (Durant) can be proud that they’ve helped in building a program that finished last in the region in their first year.”
Keith Gedamke / The Item Sumter's Derrick Hastie (1) drives the baseline against the defense of Goose Creek's Tim Spann (25) and David Brown in the Gators' 56-53 win in the 4A lower state title game Saturday at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
ORANGEBURG — Sumter High School's 4A lower state final basketball game against Goose Creek Saturday in the boys state playoffs had an eerily similar feel to its 58-52 upset win over Lower Richland in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Despite playing a poor offensive first half, the Gamecocks trailed the Gators by just four points at halftime Saturday at the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High gymnasium, the same amount by which they trailed LR. In the third quarter, Sumter captured the lead and opened up its biggest lead of the game early in the fourth quarter, just like it did in the Lower Richland game.
Only this time, SHS couldn't close the deal.
The Gamecocks watched a 6-point lead waste away over the final 4:21 of the game as Goose Creek senior guards Kendrick Robinson and Brandon Wright carried the Gators down the stretch and to a 56-53 victory.
"We just didn't do what we needed to do down the stretch," said Sumter head coach Nathan Livesay, whose team finishes the year with a 23-5 record. "Down the stretch, their talented guards took control of the game and they made the plays they had to make.
"They also made their free throws, hitting 14 of 18 (actually 13 of 16) in the fourth quarter. We missed some that ended up hurting us (Sumter hit on only 5 of 14 free throws)."
Goose Creek, which improved to 27-2 and will face Rock Hill for the state title Friday at the Colonial Center in Columbia, led 30-26 at halftime. The Gators scored two field goals in the first 2:18 of the third quarter and would not hit another field goal until the fourth quarter as Sumter shut them down. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they could not take full advantage of it.
Still a 3-point basket by Sean Whetsel tied the game at 34-34 with 4:13 left in the quarter and a Shaun Rutherford layup gave Sumter its first lead since 9-8 in the first quarter. Two Walter Lee free throws tied the game, but a Dontae Middleton layup gave SHS a 38-36 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Keith Gedamke / The Item Sumter's Kelton Tindal (32) goes around Goose Creek's David Brown in the Gamecocks' 56-53 loss in the 4A lower state title game Saturday at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
A Derrick Hastie layup to open the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 40-36. Sumter had a chance to add another easy basket, but Kelton Tindal missed a slam dunk on a breakaway. Livesay doesn't think that miss played a major role in the game.
"It would have been nice to have that basket, but we actually went on to build a bigger lead, so it didn't really affect anything."
After Wright banked in a shot to cut the lead to 40-39, Sumter scored seven of the next nine points — Tindal scoring five of them — to open a 47-41 lead with 4:21 to go. That's when things slowly started coming unraveled for Sumter.
Wright, who led Goose Creek with 21 points, hit two free throws to cut the lead to four. Richard Hampton hit one of two free throws to open the lead to 48-43 with 3:36 left. David Brown hit a free throw to make it a 4-point advantage again, before Sumter turned the ball over. Robinson, who will play in the North Carolina-South Carolina All-Star Game next month, made the Gamecocks pay as he buried a long 3-pointer with a defender in his face to make it 48-47 with 2:15 to go. (full story)
As the Sumter High School Gamecocks prepared to face Lower Richland in the third round of the 4A boys basketball state playoffs Wednesday at the SHS gymnasium, the chalkboard in the team locker room had a list of why Sumter could beat the Diamond Hornets, generally considered the top team in the state. The No.1 reason on the list, according to SHS head coach Nathan Livesay, was that while Sumter didn't have a player as good as LR's 6-7 Mike Jones, it had a group of players who played well together as a team. When Livesay entered the locker room following the game, the list had a new look to it. "They had already written on it, 'Why we beat Lower Richland: teamwork,' " Livesay said.
The 1-2-1-1 three-quarters court pressure used by the Sumter High School boys basketball team Saturday was a beautiful sight to Gamecock fans, but it made for an ugly game in the second round of the 4A state playoffs. Sumter forced Colleton County into 26 turnovers, turning almost half of them into two points at the other end, as the Gamecocks rolled to an 82-56 victory at the SHS gymnasium. The Gamecocks, who improved to 22-4 on the season, advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in several years. They will play host to Lower Richland on Wednesday beginning at 7 p.m. The Diamond Hornets, who are led by Syracuse signee Mike Jones, improved to 24-3 with a 71-48 second-round win over Summerville Saturday. Sumter head coach Nathan Livesay could offer nothing but words of praise for his team's defensive effort.
Sumter High School boys basketball head coach Nathan Livesay doesn’t know many names of the players for Colleton County, which the Gamecocks play today in the second round of the 4A state playoffs. There is one player though that he certainly knows about: guard Eric Salley.
Sumter High School's Lillian McGill played with pain. Teammate and point guard Frances Fields played with four fouls. The Lady Gamecocks were down 30-27 to a stubborn Berkeley High team with less than 3:30 on the clock in their second-round game in the 4A state playoffs at the SHS gymnasium Friday. Sumter head coach Jeff Schaffer felt it was a great time to call a timeout.
The Sumter High School varsity boys basketball team has been a fairly regular participant in the 4A state playoffs over the past few years. In fact, the Gamecocks made the playoffs in each of head coach Nathan Livesay's first two years.