SOUTH AIKEN 6 SUMTER 1
By JUSTIN DRIGGERS
SUMTER — Whether it was the rainy day doldrums or the pitching of South Aiken High School starter Taylor Widener, the Sumter High baseball team spent most of Saturday in a funk offensively.
Widener tossed a complete game, allowing just one run on five hits and also homered in the first inning to help the Thoroughbreds claim a 6-1 victory in the opening game of the Class AAAA Lower State tournament at Gamecock Field.
“Taylor was very good the first five innings. He grinded it out,” said South Aiken (19-9) head coach Bob Polewski, who will have to lead his team into Lexington on Monday at 7 p.m. “We can’t take our foot off the accelerator.”
Widener had a lot to do with that. The Thoroughbred right-hander cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two base runners and facing one over the minimum. He induced seven flyball outs and two popups in the first five frames as well.
“There was really no big secret to what he did,” Norris said. “He challenged us and he threw strikes. He didn’t throw a whole lot of breaking balls, but he’s got good velocity and we just didn’t square him up much.”
Singles by Jacob Watcher and Taylor McFaddin were all the Gamecocks produced until the sixth. Ian McCaffrey and McFaddin came up with singles, and a walk to Jacob Watcher loaded the bases with one down to give Widener his first spot of trouble in the game.
The Gamecocks finally broke through on Phillip Watcher’s sacrifice fly, but Widener allowed nothing else.
“He got a little tired there at the end and started getting his pitches up in the zone, especially his off-speed stuff,” Polewski said. “But he battled through it tonight. He got a couple of big strikeouts when he needed them and that (fourth-inning) double play got us out of the inning pretty quickly.”
The T-Breds were able to give their righty more than enough support. After Widener’s solo homer it 1-0, South Aiken tacked on two more runs in the second behind a pair of Sumter errors. T-Bred catcher Stokes Griffith reached on one of the errors and came home on the other, and Cory Bryant’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
Sumter starter Phillip Watcher was tagged with the loss, though he only allowed one earned run on five hits with five strikeouts in four innings.
South Aiken added two more runs in the fifth off Sumter reliever Jacob Watcher on a pair of back-to-back RBI singles from Mason Collins and Griffith. Bryant scored the final T-Bred run on a passed ball in the sixth.
“You want to be able to continually produce runs and take advantage of mistakes and that’s what we did today,” Polewski said. “In high school baseball, if you make the other team have to make a play, good things will happen lots of times.”
Widener and Preston Dawson led South Aiken with two hits apiece while Xavier Peralta added a double. McFaddin was the only Sumter player with multiple hits.