It had been over a week since the Sumter P-15's had played a baseball game before Monday's contest in the second round of the American Legion state playoffs, while the Lowcountry Heat had to make the 3-hour trip from the coast to play the game.
So which would win out, a rusty team or one with tight legs after a long trip? Neither came out of the gate strong, but on this particular night, Sumter rolled to an 11-2 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.
The series continues Tuesday with Game 2 scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at the Hilton Head Island High School field.
P-15's starting pitcher Jacob Watcher got off to a rough start Monday, walking two batters, hitting another and throwing a wild pitch in the first inning. Hilton Head managed to get a run out of it, but the Sumter right-hander did leave a runner stranded on third with one out.
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"I don't think we were rusty; Jacob just didn't have his command at the beginning, and it's tough when you don't have that," said Sumter head coach Curtis Johnson, whose team won its first-round series against Lake City by forfeit when Lake City didn't turn in its roster on time. "But Jacob stayed out there and battled and he ended up giving us a good performance."
Watcher worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one hit, an infield single to Grant Youman leading off the fourth. He struck out four and walked three. Paul Joseph Krouse pitched a perfect 1 2/3 innings with one strikeout and Taylor McFadding pitched a scoreless ninth.
"I thought our pitching was good enough. When you only give up one hit and that an infield single, you're doing pretty good," said Johnson, whose staff was facing a team that scored double digits in its three wins in its 4-game first-round series victory against Conway last week.
The Heat, which fell to 15-7 on the season, struggled in a mighty way defensively in the first inning. P-15's leadoff hitter Phillip Watcher had his fly ball dropped by leftfielder Jake Martin. After River Soles' first of four hits on the evening, Andrew Reardon's grounder was booted by second baseman Tommy Cooper as Phillip Watcher scored.
Soles ended up scoring on a passed ball to make it 2-1. Taylor McFafddin, who had walked, went all the way to third on a groundout and scored when Hilton Head first baseman Logan Phillips threw the ball away trying to get him out at third.
"This was really a carryover from the Conway series where we had some shaky innings defensively," said Post 185 coach Chris Seelbach, whose team finished with six errors. "This is a better team we're facing than Conway, and we can't make mistakes like this and win."
Heat starting pitcher Chance Murphy, a tall righty, gave up 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. He was charged wth 10 runs, six of them earned.
Sumter will start righty Will Smith in Tuesday's game. The Heat will send left-hander Colin Grunder to the mound.