SUMTER -- A second and deciding game in the championship round of the Class AAAA Lower State tournament appeared in the offing on Friday at Gamecock Baseball Stadium. No. 1-ranked Sumter trailed West Ashley by three runs going to the bottom of the sixth inning.
But the Gamecocks rallied for three runs in the sixth with some hits, some Wildcat errors and one daring play, and then scored a run in the bottom of the eighth to win the game, 7-6.
Sumter advances to the best-of-three state championship series where it will face Upper State champion Northwestern.
West Ashley, which finished the year with a 24-7 record, had scored twice in the top of the sixth to go up 6-3 with Wildcats ace Jonathan Sabo on the mound, and was on the verge of forcing a second game.
But Sumter's James Barnes drew a walk to start the sixth and Jordan Holladay came through with a hit-and-run single to right field. Wildcats right fielder Anthony Vincelli threw to third base to try and get Barnes, but third baseman Connor Wohnig couldn't hang on. Barnes scored to make it 6-4.
Chris Crawford singled Holladay home to make it 6-5. Crawford stole second and went to third when catcher Jamie Duke's throw went into center. With Ian McCaffrey at the plate, Crawford broke for home as Sabo started to deliver his pitch. He slid in safely to tie the game as Duke was unable to come up with the pitch.
"We've just tried to tell the guys to play the game that's in front of them," said Sumter coach Brooks Shumake, whose team improved to 27-2-1. "We try to take the emotion out of it and play the game. I'm proud of the way they rallied."
In the eighth, Sumter loaded the bases with no outs before Crawford served a single into right to score Barnes with the winning run.
Sumter took a 2-1 lead when Tee Dubose led off the second inning with a line drive home run over the left field fence. Wildcats head coach Mitch Miggenburg vehemently argued whether the ball cleared the fence in fair territory and was eventually ejected from the game.
West Ashley scored three times in the third. Wohnig had a run-scoring double and Taylor Oden followed with a 2-run double.
Caleb Goude had two hits for West Ashley, while Wohnig was 1-for-1 with two RBI and two walks.
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