Mike Thorpe has always wanted one of those tall, burly pitchers that he always seems to see opposing teams trot out to the mound.
But the Beaufort County coach doesn't have that luxury. His pitchers more often than not resemble his son, Landon Thorpe, who took the mound Monday afternoon for an elimination game against McLeod Park standing 5-foot-2 and weighing a svelte 96 pounds.
"We knew from the very beginning our pitching was going to hurt us," he said. "We just did not have the overbearing pitcher that we saw today."
The smaller Thorpe pitched well early, but in the end Beaufort's young arms couldn't hold up against McLeod Park, which plated 12 unanswered runs over the final four innings to eliminate Beaufort County with a 15-4 triumph in the Dixie Junior Boys State Tournament at Oscar J. Frazier Park in Bluffton.
"These kids have been playing together since they were in tee ball," Thorpe said. "Coming up, they never had an overpowering pitcher to really come in and shut someone out when we needed it. That's just something we've got to live with."
Beaufort County held a 3-1 lead after the first and a 4-3 advantage after the third before McLeod Park erupted over the latter half of the game.
D'Juan Scudder highlighted a five-run fifth for McLeod Park with a two-run double before Conner Smith followed with a three-run homer over the right center-field fence.
Scudder finished 3 for 3 with three doubles, a walk and a sacrifice fly while adding four RBIs. Smith, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with 4 RBIs.
"You've got to hand it to McLeod Park," Thorpe said. "If you threw a fastball in, it was a line shot in the gap to the outfield. They were a tremendous hitting team."
Things looked promising for Beaufort County early, as the hosts put up a trio of runs in the first thanks in part to Patrick Talbert's two-run double. After McLeod Park rallied to tie things up in the third, Thorpe's team responded by scoring from third on a passed ball on what would have been a third-out strikeout.
That was as far as the tournament hosts would get, however, as McLeod Park right-hander Jaye Woods shut out Beaufort County over his final three frames of work to pick up the win. He allowed four runs on three hits with nine strikeouts in six innings.
"Once again, it comes back to your pitching," Thorpe said. "You've got to have really strong pitching to get through this."
Thorpe remains hopeful his pitching staff will continue to grow in the coming years. And should that happen, maybe then Beaufort County will start to possess the big pitching staff all the others are envious of.
"We've got some hard throwers that are going to get a little bigger next year," he said. "We'll be ready."
Dixie Junior Boys State Tournament
Through Thursday, Oscar J. Frazier Park, Bluffton
Admission: $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under 5 are free.
Monday's scores: McLeod Park 15, Beaufort County 4; Aiken 9, Dentsville 1; Sumter 9, York 6; Lexington vs. Aynor
Tuesday's games: Aiken vs. York, 5 p.m.; McLeod Park vs. Lexington/Aynor winner, 7 p.m.; Lancaster vs. Sumter, 8 p.m.