By DENNIS BRUNSON
Item Sports Editor
The Sumter High School softball team handled West Florence quite easily during their two Region VI-4A meetings, the Lady Gamecocks winning the games by the scores of 8-3 and 4-0. Things were different when the teams met in an elimination game in the 4A lower state tournament Monday at the SHS field.
The Lady Knights scored 10 runs in the first three innings and never looked back on the way to a 12-5 victory that brought an end to Sumter’s season.
“It just wasn’t our day today,” said Lady Gamecocks head coach Sherry Sealey, whose team finished its season with a 20-10 record. “They came out and simply played better than we did tonight. West Florence deserved this game tonight.”
The Lady Knights, who finished fourth in region play only to sweep the District VIII tournament, improved to 11-10 on the season. They will play at either Stratford or South Florence Wednesday in another elimination game.
West Florence ripped 13 hits off of Sumter starting pitcher Kerrie Wilkie and reliever Sutton Watson. The pitchers didn’t get a lot of help in the field either as the Lady Gamecocks committed five errors.
In the first inning, Lady Knights leadoff hitter Samantha Owens drew a walk and she reached second when the shortstop, Watson, made a high throw on a fielder’s choice. After a force out, Elizabeth Braswell singled to load the bases. Wilkie got Logan Irick to ground back to her to force Carter at the plate, but Chris Haughn delivered a 2-run single.
The Lady Gamecocks got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Amanda Joos singled, stole second and scored on Angela Cataldo’s 2-out single. However, West Florence came back in the second to score three runs, picking up four hits and taking advantage of two errors. Braswell had a 2-run, 2-out single this time and Irick followed with a run-scoring single.
The game got out of hand in the third as the Lady Knights scored five runs. SHS eventually had to pull Wilkie in favor of Watson. Wilkie, who pitched 14 shutout innings to help Sumter beat Spring Valley for the District V title, didn’t have her best stuff Monday. Wilkie was charged with nine runs, the first five of which were unearned. She allowed seven hits, walked three, hit a batter and had just one strikeout.
Sealey said it was more West Florence than Wilkie that led to Monday’s result.
“They just came out ready to play today,” she said. “They hit the ball, and they were the better team.
Owens, West Florence’s pitcher, wasn’t exactly fooling the Lady Gamecocks as they picked up nine hits. However, Sumter left 10 runners on base, including eight in scoring position. Sumter cut the lead to 10-4 through five innings and left runners on second and third in both the fourth and fifth innings.
“We were able to get a couple of runners on, but we just couldn’t get the big hit,” Sealey said. “We couldn’t get more than one run in an inning.”
Joos had three of those hits, scoring two runs and driving in another. Megan Conyers had two hits, Wilkie had a hit and scored two runs and Heather Follin had an RBI single.
Haughn was 3-for-4 for the Lady Knights with a double and two RBI. Braswell had two hits and two RBI and Ginger Phillips had two hits, two runs and an RBI.
While Sealey would like to be taking a bus trip with her team on Wednesday, she has a satisfaction with what the team accomplished.
“We’re happy and proud to be where we are,” said Sealey, who led SHS to the lower state tournament for the first time in the school’s history. “To be one of the final eight teams playing is a big thing for us. It’s exciting to know where we are and where we came from.”
She loses six seniors — Wilkie, Joos, Follin, Cataldo, Conyers and Felicia Vaughn.