SUMTER — It’s nice to have a safety net like Charlie Barnes.
After Sumter High School lost to West Ashley, 2-1, in the opening game of the championship round in the District VII tournament of the Class AAAA baseball state playoffs on Thursday, the left-handed Barnes toed the rubber for the Gamecocks. And he did to the Wildcats what he has done to most of the teams he has faced this year: shut them down.
Barnes pitched a three-hit shutout as Sumter rebounded with a 6-0 victory at Gamecock Field to capture the district title.
Sumter (18-8), advances to the four-team, double-elimination Lower State tournament. It will play host to District VIII South Aiken at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the opening round.
The only time West Ashley, which finished the year with a 17-10 record, really threatened against Barnes came in the bottom of the third with Sumter leading 1-0.
The Wildcats, the home team in the deciding game, loaded the bases with two outs when Barnes hit JM Gibbons with a pitch, David Allen singled and Jonathan Sabo walked. However, Barnes struck out cleanup hitter Taylor Oden to get out of the inning.
“We really had a chance to get to him there,” West Ashley head coach Mitch Miggenburger said of Barnes. “We had the bases loaded with our cleanup hitter up, and he just threw him three great pitches. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to that.
“We’ve seen a lot of good leftys this year, and he’s one of the best, if not the best, that we’ve seen.”
In the opener, West Ashley put up two runs in the top of the first inning and Sabo made it stand up in the 2-1 victory.
Gibbons drew a walk from Gamecocks starting pitcher Will Smith to open the game. Courtesy runner Josh Mayo went to second on a sacrifice and moved to third on a Sabo single. Gibbons scored on an Oden groundout, the second out of the inning.
Connor Wohnig hit a grounder to Phillip Watcher at shortstop, and Watcher couldn’t handle it, leaving runners on the corners. Sabo scored on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
Sumter got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Phillip Watcher hit a two-out, solo home run off Sabo. The right-handed Sabo ended up scattering six hits while striking out three and walking three.
Sumter missed on a great opportunity to get some more in the second. It loaded the bases with one out, but McFaddin hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
The Gamecocks had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. Jacob Watcher led off with a single and John Lee Campbell drew a 1-out walk. The runners moved up a base on a McFaddin groundout, but Sabo got Barnes on a close play at first to end the game.
“Will really pitched well for us,” Norris said of Smith, who worked 6 2/3 innings. “The last six or seven starts he has been outstanding for us.”
Jacob Watcher will start on the mound against South Aiken on Saturday since Sumter had to use both Smith and Barnes on Thursday.
“We decided to go with Will today because the last six or seven starts he has been as good as Charlie,” Norris said. “If West Ashley was going to beat us twice today, they were going to have to beat both Will and Barnes.”
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