When it came to choosing which college he would attend, Sumter High School football player J.D. Fulwood decided he would stay close to home.
Fulwood, a 2-year starter at defensive end for the Gamecocks, will play for South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. He chose the Bulldogs over Hampton University in Virginia and The Citadel in Charleston.
"I just felt like (S.C. State) was a better fit and it is close to home," said Fulwood, a 6-3, 240-pounder. "I have a history of people in my family going there — a lot of uncles — and I've got a stepbrother going there.
"It came down to Hampton and S.C. State and both are HBCs (historically black colleges) and one's closer to home so I decided to go there," he added. "I was there for a visit and me and the coaches were talking when (S.C. State head coach) Buddy Pough came in. I talked to him and everything just felt right for me."
Fulwood led Sumter's defensive linemen in total tackles wtih 64, the fifth highest total on the team. He had 39 solo tackles, four quarterback sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He tied for second on the team in tackles for loss.
MONCKS CORNER — Excuse Stephen Curtis and Tony Micklon if they try to find a way to make a return trip to Berkeley High School's Jim Bradley Field. The two Sumter High School baseball players have found a home run groove at the park.
After the duo hit back-to-back solo homers in the Gamecocks' 5-1 first-round win over the Stags on Thursday, Curtis hit a 2-run homer in the fourth to put SHS in the lead and Micklon added a 2-run blast in the sixth to put an exclamation point on a 4-run inning as Sumter won 12-3 on Monday to advance to the championship round of the District VIII tournament of the 4A state playoffs.
Sumter, which improved to 21-7 on the season, will play at Summerville on Wednesday and will have to beat the Green Wave twice to win the district. The first game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
The game was tied 2-2 entering the fourth inning when Berkeley brought in right-handed pitcher Thurman Pellman to replace left-handed starter Thomas Brittle. Michael Blackmon reached on an error to lead off the inning. After a sacrifice, Curtis hit a towering shot over the fence in left-center field to give the Gamecocks a 4-2 advantage.
"If I could, I would come back again," said Curtis, who tomahawked a homer out to rightfield off of Pellman on Thursday. "It was a high fastball that I got a hold of."
In the sixth, Cam Sessions was on the mound for Berkeley. He gave up a 2-run double to Matt Price before Micklon followed with a 2-run shot down the leftfield line.
"This is a relatively small field, but Stephen and I are just seeing the ball well right now," Micklon said. "We've been working real hard and we've been getting a lot of help from (Sumter head) Coach (Brooks) Shumake."
Sumter added four more runs in the seventh, three of them coming on a homer from Bruce Caldwell. After getting just three hits in a 5-3 loss to Summerville on Saturday, Sumter had 16 against five different Berkeley pitchers on Monday.
"It was good to see us hit the ball like that," Shumake said. "We're going to need to produce like that on Wednesday against Summerville."
Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery started on the mound for SHS. He worked three innings, giving up two runs and three hits. Shumake was pleased with his effort.
After a solid regular season, the Sumter High School varsity boys tennis team begins play today in the 4A state playoffs. Sumter earned the No.2 seed in the lower state with a 13-4 overall record and a 6-2 record in Region VI.
In the first round, the Gamecocks will host Stratford, the No.3 team from the traditionally-strong Charleston-area Region VII, at 4:30 p.m. at the Sumter High tennis courts.
Sumter’s only region losses came against No.1 seed West Florence, the defending 4A state champion. Sumter coach Wayne Brown said he was pleased with the way his team came together this season.
“We’re very pleased with the record,” Brown said. “I think we surprised ourselves. I know we had three matches that went down to No.1 doubles, and one of those even went down to a tiebreaker in the third set.
“Against Hartsville, we were down 9-6 in the tiebreaker and came back to win 11-9 and clinch the No.2 spot in the region,” Brown added. “If we hadn’t done that, we’d have probably tied for No.2 and, who knows, we might have ended up on the road (today).”
LJ Anderson didn't hear his name called during the National Football League Draft this past weekend. Although he got two calls in the later rounds, his name was left off the board.
While he didn't hear his name called, Anderson did get a telephone call just mere minutes after the draft as the Kansas City Chiefs gave the former Sumter High School standout a ring. They offered a 2-year contract and Anderson jumped right on that.
So what's the reward for becoming a professional football player? Facing No.5 overall draft pick Glenn Dorsey of Louisiana State every day in practice.
"(Kansas City wants to) go youth," said Anderson. "They told me I have an opportunity to come in and contribute if I do what I am supposed to. My head is stronger than it was coming into college. The transition will be tough.
"Glenn Dorsey is going to whip my tail," he laughed. "Hopefully I can whip him some. It will make me a better player."
Anderson, who is set to graduate on Friday from the University of Central Florida, said he received two phone calls during the draft on Sunday. One came from Kansas City in the fifth round and another from Cincinnati in the sixth round.
They might not have finished right on schedule, thanks to a mid-afternoon thunderstorm that delayed proceedings for about an hour, but the Sumter High School's varsity girls and boys track teams had a lot to be happy about at the end of Saturday's Region VI-4A meet at Sumter Memorial Stadium.
Girls team members earned 22 spots in 15 events for next Saturday's state qualifier at Spring Valley High School while the boys claimed 20 places in 13 events.
Both teams faced stiff competition from the respective West Florence teams. The SHS boys were able to overcome the Knights' squad in the overall team competition, finishing with a 144-100 cushion, while the Lady Gamecocks came fell short of the Lady Knights' 144 points, taking second place with 130.
SUMMERVILLE — Sumter High School only had three hits in its winners bracket game in the District VIII tournament of the 4A state playoffs against Summerville on Saturday at the Summerville field. That didn't mean the Gamecocks didn't have runners on base, however.
SHS left nine runners on base, hit into a double play with the bases loaded and had a baserunning mistake that cost it as it dropped a 5-3 decision to the Green Wave.
The loss means Sumter will travel to Moncks Corner on Monday to face Berkeley at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. Berkeley, which Sumter beat 5-1 on Thursday, beat Richland Northeast 15-0 on Saturday to stay alive and knock RNE out of the tournament.
The game was originally scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. but didn't start until almost 8 because of a heavy storm that came through in the afternoon. Once the game did start, there was a human rain delay as the game took almost three hours to play.
The Gamecocks, who fell to 20-7 on the season, only had one hit through the first fix innings before getting two in the seventh. Summerville starting pitcher Pat Dolan walked nine batters, however, including Stephen Curtis and
Tyler Smith three times each, and hit another, but he was able to get himself out of most of the jams.
"We just didn't cash in when we had the opportunities," said SHS head coach Brooks Shumake. "We just weren't able to get the hits when we needed to. We just left the runners on base."
Bruce Caldwell got SHS's first hit in the third inning, and it was a 2-run home run that put the Gamecocks on top 2-1. Sumter had Dolan on the ropes at that point, but couldn't deliver the knockout punch.
Dolan, who worked 6-plus innings and threw close to 140 pitches, walked Matt Price, Curtis and Smith after Caldwell's homer to load the bases with one out. Dolan struck out Tony Micklon and Stephen Stafford, however, to get out of the jam.
After Summerville rallied for a 3-2 lead with two runs in the fourth, Sumter had a rally going in the sixth when Bryan McDaniel reached on an error and Matt King walked to bring the top of the order up with one out. The inning came to an end, however, when a ball went off the glove of Summerville catcher Brett Wheeler and pinch runner Cam Martin broke for third before deciding to return to second. King was heading to second, however, and Sumter ended up with two runners on the bag. King was tagged out and Michael Blackmon struck out to end the inning.
Sumter High School's varsity boys golf team leads the Region VI-4A state qualifier after the first round of play on Monday. The Gamecocks hold an 8-stroke lead over West Florence after shooting a 290 at Beech Creek.
The top two teams from each region qualify for the state tournament. Hartsville is third with a 349.
Sumter's Brian Amick and West Florence's Mitch Gray led the tournament with a first round low 69. Dalton Ward shot a 73 for SHS and teammates Hayden Letien and Devin Barton each shot 74.
Sumter will tee off today at 1 p.m. for the final round.
HARTSVILLE — The Sumter High School varsity softball team improved to 5-10 overall and picked up its first Region VI-4A win, moving to 1-7 on Tuesday with an 8-3 win over Hartsville at the Hartsville softball field.
Courtney Buckner got the win in the circle for Sumter, throwing three strikeouts while giving up five hits and a pair of walks.
Katherine Ortmann was 2-for-4 with a run batted in. Sutton Watson was 2-for-4, Anna Ortmann was 1-for-3 with two RBI and Abbye Durant was 1-for-2 with a 2-RBI triple.
Sumter travels to face Dutch Fork today at 6 p.m. in Ballentine.
Momma still owns a perfect record against her son, but it wasn't quite as easy as the first time.
East Clarendon High School softball head coach Judy Coker made it 2-0 against her son, first-year Sumter High head coach Warren Coker, as the Lady Wolverines scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to pick up a 6-4 win on Wednesday at the SHS field.
When the two teams met last month in Turbeville, EC picked up a 9-1 victory in the first-ever softball meeting between mother and son. That led to Warren, who has coached against his mother as volleyball head coaches at their respective schools, receiving several e-mails from friends around the state offering some good-natured ribbing.
"It wasn't as easy for them tonight," said Warren Coker, whose Lady Gamecocks fell to 3-7 on the season. "It was a tough one to lose tonight. "That's the third time we've played a 9-inning game and it's the third one that we've lost."
Judy Coker said she didn't rub in the fact that her team beat Warren's team for the second-straight time.
"I just told him it came down to us getting those two big hits," said Judy Coker, who got a 2-out, 2-run triple from Kristan McElveen and a run-scoring double from Elizabeth Stone in the top of the ninth off of Sumter pitch Sutton Watson. "It was a well-played game; we just got the hits at the end."
The game was tied 3-3 after seven innings and neither team could score in the eighth. East Clarendon was denied a run when Sumter leftfielder Alex Cataldo threw out Kayla Carsten at home plate to end the inning following a single by Danielle Culick.
The teams used the International tiebreaker rule in the ninth, starting with a runner on second base. The Lady Wolverines had runners on first and third with two outs when McElveen delivered her triple. Stone followed with the double to make it 6-3 and Sumter could muster just one run in the bottom of the inning.
"You've got to give credit where credit is due," said Warren Coker. "They came through with the hits when they had to have them. They came out and won the game and came through in the clutch."
Judy Coker said her team came into the game feeling like it still had something to prove against Sumter since the Lady Gamecocks didn't have Watson, their No.1 pitcher, in the first meeting.
"The girls were excited coming in because they wanted to prove they could play with the bigger schools," East Clarendon's Coker said. "We didn't get rattled and we stayed focused."
Warren coached against his late father, Norman, who was the EC junior varsity coach when Warren was the Sumter junior varsity coach, and never lost to him.
"Mom's doing something daddy didn't do," he said.
The Cokers said that while they are aware of who is making the decisions for the other team, it still comes down to being a game between two teams.
"It was exciting and it was (a) nervous (time) too," said Judy Coker, who stated that she's used the same signs for 30 years, but has had to change them for the meetings against her son. "Both of us are trying to set our girls on fire. It's something that we've looked forward to for a long time. You get out there though and you're just trying to win the game."
"It feels different trying to face a parent, but it still comes down to trying to do things correctly and try to win the game," said Warren Coker. "I'm trying to coach my team and so is she."
A.C. Flora High had little trouble getting two strikes against Sumter on Friday night.
Two outs came rather easily as well. But the struggles to get the third out cost the Falcons in the Forest Acres Classic final.
Sumter scored 10 runs, all with two outs, during the first three innings in a 13-0 victory at Falcon Field.
The clutch hitting meant the Gamecocks (13-3) headed back to Sumter unbeaten in four tournament games to claim the championship.
“Baseball is about timely hitting and knocking in runs when they are out there,” Sumter coach Brooks Shumake said. “We were able to do that tonight. We felt real fortunate to have those bats do that.”
Even though Sumter scored four in the first, five in the second and one in the third inning, A.C. Flora (9-6) was closer to hanging with the Gamecocks than the score indicated.
The Gamecocks put two on with two out in the first and A.C. Flora starting pitcher Will Freeman had Tyler Smith in a two-strike hole. But Freeman’s next pitch caught too much of the plate and Smith blasted it over the wall in center for a three-run home run.
“When we get two strikes, we normally shorten up (on the bat) and try to just put the ball in play,” Smith said. “He just hung a change-up, and I just poked the bat out there and it went pretty far over the fence.”
Tony Micklon drew a walk and Steven Stafford ripped a double, putting Sumter up 4-0.
Freeman retired the first two Sumter batters in the second inning but didn’t record another out. The next five Gamecocks reached base, four on hits.
Stephen Curtis made it 5-0 with an RBI single before Smith, who pitched Sumter into the final with a complete-game victory against White Knoll on Thursday, stroked a two-strike, two-run double for a 7-0 lead.
Sumter High School right-handed pitcher Matt Price and Hartsville righty Jordan Lyles gave everyone the pitching matchup that was expected when their respective teams met for the Region VI-4A lead on Tuesday at Gamecock Field.
However, it was errors that made the difference in the game that had more than its fair share of Major League Baseball scouts in attendance to check out the two pitchers.
SHS made three errors in the top of the first inning that the Red Foxes turned into two runs and Lyles made them stand up as Hartsville held on for a 2-1 victory.
"The mistakes we made early on ended up costing us," said Sumter head coach Brooks Shumake, whose team fell 8-3 on the season and 2-1 in region play. "It was one of those games where the team that made the fewest mistakes would win."
The first started innocently enough for Price, who has signed to play collegiately with the University of South Carolina, as he struck out the first two batters. He then walked Trevor Cassidy and Lee Tyner reached when Gamecock third baseman Stephen Curtis couldn't handle a ground ball.
Sumter tried to pick Cassidy off of second base, but the ball got away and Cassidy moved to third. SHS then tried to pick courtesy runner Dylan Usher off of first and that ball got away as well, with Cassidy scoring and Usher going all the way to third.
Usher scored when Lyles singled to left to make it 2-0.
"We work on the pickoff at second base a lot in practice, and when we had someone taking as big a lead as he (Cassidy) was, that's when we run out," said Shumake. "If we make the play, he's out. Then the ball rolls just far enough away where he can go to third."
Mark Morgan / The Item Sumter High's Matt King follows through on a swing during the Gamecocks' game against Hartsville on Tuesday. The Gamecocks lost 2-1.
Hartsville wouldn't scratch against Price again. Price, who fell to 3-1, finished with nine strikeouts and one walk and allowed just four hits. Lyles had three of the hits.
"Matt's been going through some tough times early in the games," Shumake said. "Against West Florence (a 3-2 SHS victory in which it rallied from a 2-0 deficit), we made some mistakes that hurt him there."
Lyles scattered seven hits while striking out 11 and walking one. The Gamecocks had runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings, but were only able to come through one time.