AIKEN — He was pinch hit for earlier in the game, but this time, it was Stokes Griffith’s moment.
The catcher singled in two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, lifted his fist in celebration at first and then got pats and applause from his teammates as he was replaced – this time for a runner – and walked into the dugout.
Griffith’s two RBI proved to be the difference as South Aiken beat Sumter, 8-7, on Wednesday night.
With the victory, the Thoroughbreds will travel to Lexington to play for the Class AAAA Lower State baseball championship on Friday. South Aiken must beat Lexington twice to win the title.
“I just knew I had to put the ball in play,” Griffith said. “I was like, ‘All right, here we go.’ ”
Both teams’ pitchers struggled to get outs, with walks and balks working with a big error for each team. At one point, with the game tied at 5 going into the bottom of the fourth, the teams combined for 10 runs on just five total hits.
The Thoroughbreds were leading most of the game, going up 5-2 despite having only one hit to that point.
In the second inning, South Aiken scored three runs, with Preston Dawson and Josh Kiser getting RBI on bases-loaded walks. Earlier, the Thoroughbreds got a run on a strikeout when Mason Collins swung on a low pitch but reached first and saw a run score as the ball got away from the catcher.
After the second inning, South Aiken didn’t score again until the sixth.
A single, intentional walk – Taylor Widener was intentionally walked three times – balk, walk, single and another balk led to three runs as the Thoroughbreds rallied from a 6-5 deficit.
Sumter had taken the lead on an RBI single by Taylor McFaddin in the top of the sixth.
The Gamecocks got a run back in the seventh on a balk, but Widener got a liner to short to send South Aiken to a showdown against Lexington.
“It was a wild game,” South Aiken coach Bob Polewski said. “I think nerves played a part on both teams – that’s not characteristic of our pitching staff or theirs. Fortunately, we had more runs at the end.”