Playing the pivotal role as table-setter in Summerville High’s offense, senior centerfielder T.J. Hopkins reached base four times and scored four runs in the Green Wave’s 7-4 District VIII playoff opening game win over Stratford.
Top-ranked Summerville (23-2) will host Sumter, a 5-3 winner over River Bluff, on Friday night in the winner’s bracket game.
Hopkins tallied one of Summerville’s three hits in the game but walked three other times. The speedster, headed to South Carolina in the fall, also swiped three bases in the win.
“That’s my job, to get on base and try to make things happen on the bases,” said Hopkins. “Coach pretty much gives me the green light to go when I feel I can make it happen. Tonight I was really patient and was able to work a few walks and do my job.”
Summerville head coach Banks Faulkner says Hopkins is the one player on his roster that is capable of controlling an entire game with his speed — on the bases and in the outfield.
“He got over to third base in the sixth inning and I told him how much I was going to miss coaching him,” said Faulkner. “He’s one of those guys that can really put a lot of pressure on the other team. He probably hasn’t had the season he had hoped to have overall, but he’s definitely a guy that is a leader on this team with the way he plays.”
The game was thought to be a pitcher’s duel between two of the top arms in the Lowcountry — Stratford senior lefty Eddie Hiott and Summerville junior right-hander Sawyer Bridges. That classic matchup never materialized as both pitchers struggled early, primarily with control.
Hiott allowed three runs on two hits, walking four, in the first inning as Summerville bolted to an early lead. Matt Powell and Bo Gobin each had RBIs in the opening frame. Hiott would end up allowing five runs on two hits with six walks in two innings of work.
Bridges also faced one batter in the third, leaving after four walks but allowing only one hit with three strikeouts.
“He wasn’t as good as he usually is tonight and we had to use a lot of arms, but fortunately we feel like pitching is our strength,” said Faulkner.
Catcher Jack Bahen gave Summerville a 5-0 lead in the third, but the Knights rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth off Kyle Smith, who allowed his first earned runs of the season. Second baseman Mikey White delivered two runs with a single and scored the fourth run on a Summerville error.
Summerville’s third pitcher of the night, junior Cameron Almond, quieted the Stratford rally and pitched into the sixth before giving way to closer Gobin, who retired the last four hitters he faced for the save.
“Cameron came up big for us tonight, and we needed someone to step up,” said Faulkner.
Stratford will travel to River Bluff on Friday night with first-year head coach Alan Biggers sending his other ace — senior right-hander Jamison Mobbs — to the mound.
“I thought we battled, we played hard and we competed,” said Biggers. “We don’t talk about the score here. We talk about effort and I thought we gave it a good effort tonight. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”