MOUNT PLEASANT - Top-ranked Sumter escaped Wando, 2-1, Monday night to climb into the driver's seat in the Class AAAA Lower State baseball playoffs.
Sumter advances into Friday's Lower State title game and will face the winner of Wednesday's Wando-West Ashley elimination game, set for 7 p.m. at Wando's Warrior Field. The winner of that game will have to defeat Sumter twice on Friday to advance to the state finals.
Sumter senior right-hander Phillip Watcher, a Citadel commitment, struck out 13 and scattered 10 hits with no walks over seven innings in the Gamecocks' win. Watcher went inning for inning with Warriors senior Tyler Kimbrell, who allowed just two hits and two walks with five strikeouts through seven.
"It was a battle out there tonight," Sumter coach Brooks Shumake said. "(Watcher) pitched his heart out for us and we were fortunate enough to scratch across two runs for him."
Tyler Ackard was 3 for 4 for the Warriors, and Trevor Pedersen finished 3 for 4 with an RBI. Wando hit .333 as a team but left nine runners stranded. The Warriors put two on with no outs in the first, and left the bases loaded in the third and fourth.
"All night we put guys in scoring position and just couldn't find that big hit," Wando head coach Dirk Thomas said. "It's a shame to lose that way but it was just a well-played game. This is what high school baseball is all about. Good pitching, great plays, crowd was into it. We made the game of baseball proud tonight, both teams."
Charlie Barnes put Sumter on top in the fourth with a sacrifice fly RBI to score Javon Martin.
Trevor Pedersen answered for Wando in the bottom of the inning with a single into left field to drive in Gervais DuPre.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Sumter's Jordan Holladay moved to third on a wild pitch. Three pitches later, Holiday stole home on another wild pitch for the go-ahead Gamecocks run.
"In a game like this, it's critical to be fundamentally sound to force something to happen," Shumake said. "There's a lot of strategy to try to push one across in a game this close. That's normally what's its going to come down to this deep in the playoffs."
Pedersen tripled into right field with two outs into the sixth. He came inches from tying the game, nearly stealing home in a tight play at the plate. In the top of the seventh, Pedersen gunned down a runner at the plat from center field the third out to keep the Warriors alive.
Watcher sealed the win with one of his best innings of the night, with a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh.
Holladay and Watcher picked up Sumter's only hits of the night. Holladay added a run scored and Watcher a walk.