BATESBURG, S.C. -- Measuring the size of an athlete's heart is easy -- find him at his lowest point and ask him what he's going to do next.
If he's anything like Batesburg-Leesville pitcher Brett Price, he'll beg for the ball. After being roughed up by Swansea May 9 in the first round of the South Carolina Class AA playoffs, Price couldn't wait to get back on the mound. The Tigers won 10-2 that day, sending the University of South Carolina signee home with his worst defeat of the season.
When he relieved starter John Lorick in the fourth inning of Wednesday's loser's bracket rematch with the Tigers, Price was magnificent. He struck out nine of the 15 batters he faced and limited Swansea to the four runs credited to Lorick as Batesburg won 5-4.
His performance kept the Panthers alive and the offense finally got to Tigers starter Mike Ray in the bottom of the seventh. They scored three runs to tie the score 4-4, then scored the game winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
As if scripted, Price used his speed to score from second base on a two-out single to left field by Travis Blackwell. Batesburg-Leesville (17-8) had lost three of four previous meetings with Swansea (20-9) this season with Ray beating them twice.
"He wanted these guys because they hit him Saturday," said Panthers coach Phil Strickland. "He was talking all day about pitching tonight."
Ray hit three home runs Saturday and cracked a two-run shot in the first inning to spot the Tigers an early 2-0 lead. However, he was pulled in favor of Glen Wright in the eighth after allowing the Panthers to force extra-innings when they sent seven batters to the plate and collected three hits.
Price set down the Tigers in order in the top of the eighth. Austin Childers was plunked by Wright then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Teddy Luckadoo. Price was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second with one out.
Brad Bedenbaugh followed with a single to shallow center field. A charging Chad Tackett gunned down Childers at the plate for the second out of the inning. When Blackwell's single fell, Price never hesitated rounding third.
"I was going all the way," Price said. "I knew they weren't going to get me."
With his performance Wednesday, Price (9-4) moved his strikeout total to 107 in 69.1 innings. The Panthers advance to the Lower State finals at Bishop England Friday. They will have to win twice to move onto the state championship series.
The Tigers had an opportunity to close the game with two outs in the seventh inning and holding a 4-2 lead. Jarred Lybrand hit a bases-loaded chopper to Tigers shortstop David Hinkle. Hinkle waited on the ball, the play was close and Lybrand was called safe. Blackwell and Lorick came in on the infield hit.
Swansea -- 200 200 00 -- 4 7 2
Batesburg-Leesville -- 000 100 31 -- 5 13 0
Mike Ray, Glen Wright (LP) and Jason Smith. John Lorick, Brett Price (WP, 9-4) and Austin Childers.
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