Sumter continues to knock around Lowcountry Heat in playoff series

Lowcountry Heat's Logan Phillips pitches during their game against Sumter in the American Legion baseball playoffs on Tuesday night at Hilton Head Island High School.
Lowcountry Heat's Logan Phillips pitches during their game against Sumter in the American Legion baseball playoffs on Tuesday night at Hilton Head Island High School. Delayna Earley

Jake Martin knows what his Lowcountry Heat team must do to remain alive in their American Legion playoff series with Sumter.

"We've got to cut down on walks, we've got to throw more strikes and just get more people on base," he said. "We haven't been getting people on base, and when we do get people on base we're not driving them in."

Got all that?

The list of changes is long for Post 185, which fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-five series with Sumter on Tuesday night thanks to an 18-5 thrashing at Hilton Head Island High School. The P-15s have outscored the Heat 29-7 through the first two games of the series and will go for the sweep at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Riley Park in Sumter.

"It's tough," Post 185 coach Chris Seelbach said. "You do the best you can. They have a good team. The unfortunate thing about it is I think if we were at full speed it would be a much different series."

Seelbach may never know just how different the series could have been. Post 185 has played the last two nights without several of its main cogs, as Randy Young, Grant Youmans and Caleb Martin are all out of town.

Logan Phillips, who hit a team record four homers in the playoff series victory over Conway, also has dealt with a strained hip he suffered after making a big turn around first base in Sumter on Monday night.

"That's definitely the toughest part, whenever you don't have Caleb Martin and Randy Young," Jake Martin said. "That's the meat of our order, you know? They've been driving in runs all year for us. We're not putting up 10, 15 runs like we have the whole time."

Their absence was expounded by the Heat's struggles on the mound, which continued Tuesday as Post 185 pitchers combined to surrender 13 walks and 14 hits. Sumter put the leadoff man on base in six of eight innings, five of which came via walk, and also pounded out four extra base hits.

Starting pitcher Colin Grunder took the meat of the punishment, allowing 11 runs and seven walks in 3 2-3 innings. An eight-run fourth in which the P-15s sent 13 men to the plate ended any hopes of the Heat pulling even in the series.

"Pitching has kind of been our Achilles' heel all year," Martin said. "It's just tough whenever you don't have your whole team and you're throwing guys out there that haven't really played all summer."

Those struggles had little impact on the Heat's boisterous dugout, however, as Post 185 players continued to chirp like they've done all summer. Martin and Seelbach said players remain upbeat despite their recent struggles and will have little trouble getting up for Wednesday's elimination game.

"They're a pretty happy-go-lucky bunch," Seelbach said. "I think they enjoy being on the field, they enjoy playing. They realize the situation we're in, they realize we're shorthanded and they're doing the best they can.

"The guys that are out there are fighting and doing the best they can. I don't think it's a situation where you really have to get them up and get them going."

Sumter P-15s 201 830 04 -- 18 14 5

Lowcountry Heat 100 030 10 -- 5 9 1

WP: Will Smith 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.

LP: Colin Grunder 3 2-3 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 1 K.

Top hitters: Sumter -- Taylor McFaddin 3 for 5, 2B, 4 RBI; Jacob Watcher 3 for 5, 2 B, 4 RBI; J.C. Comer 1 for 2, 2B, 2 RBI. Lowcountry Heat -- Storm Grisham 3 for 4, SB; Sean Holm 2 for 3.