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Sumter County defeats Linden in 11-10 thriller

BUTLER–The Sumter County 7-and-8 year-old All-Stars put together two big early innings and held on late to edge Linden 11-10 Monday night in the championship round of the area Dixie Youth “AA” sub-District tournament.

Sumter advances to the District tournament, starting this Thursday in Greensboro, but it was far from easy after Linden narrowed an 11-8 lead to one in the bottom of the final inning. Ralph Langley and Thomas Glass each reached base with one out before Will Stephens kept Linden’s hopes alive with a two-out single to drive in Langley and Glass. But Linden’s next batter grounded to Sumter shortstop Jeremy Mines, who threw to second to retire Stephens and preserve the win.

It was perhaps appropriate that Mines recorded the final out of the tournament in which he emerged as one of the area’s best players at the “AA” age level. Mines had helped Sumter past Butler and Demopolis with his bat, recording three home runs and multiple RBIs in 20-13 and 16-11 wins, but he did most of his damage against Linden with his glove. Mines made several key defensive plays for Sumter as they preserved their lead, including back-to-back robberies of Glass and Hayden Huckabee in the bottom of the third.

With Mines going a relatively quiet 2-3 with two singles on the night, the Sumter offense had to come from elsewhere and did in the second and third innings. Sumter 7-8-9 hitters Clay Truelove, Blaine Winsett, and Camden Martin went a combined 6-for-6 with 3 doubles, 4 RBIs, and 6 runs scored in the two innings as Sumter scored four in the second and six in the third for an 11-7 lead. Sumter batters connected for 13 hits in the two innings, one of the biggest of which was Walker Meadows’ two-run single to score Mines and Jan Hester in the third. Drew Busby, Cullen Bailey, and Brett Boland also each contributed RBIs in the rally.

Sumter would need every one of those runs as the Linden defense tightened and yielded no runs over Sumter’s final three at-bats. Williamson’s tag-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play in the fifth and Langley’s snag of Brett Boland line drive in the sixth helped keep Linden in the game as they searched for the tying runs. Williamson’s triple in the fourth led to Tait Sanford’s one-out RBI single, but Linden would get no closer until their rally in the sixth.

Linden had opened the game with a five-run burst in the first inning. Tyler Barkley singled before Langley–along with Mines, one of the players of the tournament–nearly drove the ball out of the park, coming around for a two-run home run and an early 2-1 lead. Linden would add three more in the inning as Glass, Huckabee, Stephens, Williamson, and Sanford strung together five consecutive singles.

In the bottom of the second, Shade Pritchett and Hayden Hall would score on a Barkley single to put Linden up 7-5, but it would be their last lead of the ballgame.

Sumter County “AA” All-Stars are T.J. Hughes, Seth Meadows, Jan Hester, Jeremy Mines, Walker Meadows, Kevin Sadler, Clay Truelove, Blaine Winsett, Camden Martin, Cullen Bailey, Brett Boland, Nick Clowers, and Drew Busby.

Linden “AA” All-Stars are Hayden Hall, Tyler Barkley, Thomas Etheridge, Ralph Langley, Thomas Glass, Hayden Huckabee, Will Stephens, Matt Williamson, Tait Sanford, Caleb Broadhead, Carson Huckabee, Shade Pritchett, and Cason Cook.