Spartans sweep PR, snatch top 4A seed
Sun Valley High's baseball team completed a three-game sweep of archrival Porter Ridge with a 5-3 victory on the road Friday.
The victory completes a comeback from an 0-6 start in the Southern Carolina Conference. The Spartans won eight of their last nine league games to snatch the top 4A playoff seed from the Pirates.
Junior Alex Sawyer played a major role in the Spartans' (11-13, 8-7 SCC) victory. Sawyer was 2-for-3 day with three RBI, including a two-run single in the top of the sixth inning to break a tie game.
Kyle Brantley led off the sixth with a double to right-center and moved over on a sacrifice bunt, but didn't have a chance to score on a grounder to third that was knocked down.
Sawyer kept his at-bat alive by fouling off an 0-2 pitch before slapping the decisive single over the second baseman's head to score Brantley and Courtland Stout.
"I just choked up (on the bat)," Sawyer said. "I was trying to put it in play and hope I hit it somewhere good. Honestly, as soon as I hit it, I started pumping my fist because I knew I was going to get it. The most important thing we got in that game was a W."
Sawyer gave the Spartans a 3-2 lead in the second inning in his first at-bat with a single that landed in almost the same spot.
"Alex (Sawyer) has been huge, he's probably mad at me for hitting in the 9-hole his whole career but I love him in that spot because he finds a way to get on," Spartans coach Rocky Richar said. "He competes at the plate. He's one of our grittiest players if not the grittiest. He's going to go up there and compete.
"One thing about Alex Sawyer is you will never question the effort and his approach to anything whether it's baseball, football or whatever. He is an incredibly hard worker. It was really exciting to see him battle, battle, battle and make two big hits, including the one in the sixth to drive in the game winning runs."
Brantley, Alden McKellar and Stout each scored in the second inning to take the 3-2 lead after the Pirates had scored to runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Zach Blalock led off the Pirates (12-11, 8-7 SCC) with a double in the bottom the first, followed by an RBI single from Jerrick Robbins, who eventually scored on an error.
Chase Shuford scored on an error, tying the game at 3 in the fourth, but the Pirates couldn't manufacture another run against Spartan starter Ryan Tapp.
Tapp went the distance, yielding five hits and five walks while striking out five.
The Spartans carry a lot of momentum into the conference tournament after winning five straight to end the conference schedule.
"That's where we have to understand this is a game you can never get too high or too low," Richar said. "As soon as you get your head a little too big, you get beat and when you're playing with no confidence you tend to struggle. That's the thing we've talked about all year long and we've gotten to that point. It's going to take a real good performance by a good baseball team to beat us at this point. I'm not saying we're going to beat everybody in the world but we're going to be a tough out for anybody we play."
For Sawyer and the Spartans, the second half of the season has more than offset their slow start.
"Our confidence is soaring," Sawyer said. "We're starting to make better approaches at the plate. We're trying to put it in play and do our job. We just have to play ball, do the best we can and hopefully we can get it."
The Spartans face Anson County in the first round of the conference tournament while Porter Ridge takes on Parkwood.