AAAA State Championship: Byrnes Rebels at Sumter Gamecocks, Game 3


By: Will Cheatham – May 20, 2011

-Diamond Prospects on hand for AAAA Championship Game-

This was the final game of the season. With the series tied at 1 win apiece, Gilbert High school was kind enough to be the neutral site for the game tonight and this park is a perfect venue for this game. I got to the game an hour before game time, and the press box was already filled with TV, radio, and newspaper press; but DP made some adjustments and got the Verizon hotspot working right behind home plate to get the blog going, and we had a great seat for what played out to be an unbelievable game.

gossettd-balance10.jpgmontgomeryjordan-proday11.jpgWell, we had the same matchup on the mound tonight that we did in the opening game Monday. This, however, was a different story. Tonight’s game was what we thought we would see in game one, and really was a testament to the pitching ability of both Jordan Montgomery (left) and Daniel Gossett (right) in the first inning. Both teams put runners in scoring position, but were unable to drive in the run. To start things off for the Rebels, Reed Rohlman drove a double into left-center the first at-bat of the game. This did nothing but make the crowd even louder than it already was. He advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, but was stranded at third after back-to-back strikeouts from Montgomery.

It was more of the same in the bottom half, with Michael Blackmon reaching on a walk to start the inning. He was replaced on the base paths by Jeremy Buckner. Gossett struck out the next batter, and Buckner moved to second with a stolen base. Bruce Caldwell rolled over a spiltty for an unassisted out by the first baseman Wade Metcalf, moving Buckner to third. Andrew Reardon then came to the plate, but on the squeeze attempt Gossett pitched out and they were able to get Buckner in a rundown to record the final out of the inning.

Montgomery cruised again through the next frame, recording two more strikeouts to end the inning. Sumter again got the leadoff hitter on base after an error. Gossett struck out the next batter looking. Phillip Watcher came to the plate for his first at-bat on the night Monday. He was 2-for-2 against Gossett with 3 RBI’s on Tuesday. He again singled up the middle, but shortstop Alex Cunningham was able to cut the ball off behind the bag at second, where he wheeled and threw a bullet to third and got Reardon out…who had made his turn a little too long at the bag. Josh Kisamore followed that up with a single into right, but Gossett was able to get another big strikeout to end the threat again for the Gamecocks.

We had more of the same in the third inning. This time Montgomery recorded three strikeouts, with a single from Rohlman and a walk sandwiched in between. John Campbell got the ball rolling for the Gamecocks with a single into center to start the inning. Blackmon then dropped down a sacrifice bunt and Gossett attempted to get the lead runner. The runner was able to beat the throw. Taylor McFadden was able to get down a sacrifice bunt down the first base line, moving both runners into scoring position. The Rebels then intentionally put Caldwell on first base to load the bases, and Gossett did it again with a one out strike out, then got a fly out to right from Will Smith.

Montgomery showed signs of slowing some in the fourth (insert sarcasm) as he only recorded one strikeout this inning and let his defense work a little behind him. Here we also saw Gossett begin to loosen up, and things worked very well for him as he recorded two strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning. Rohlman continued to have a red-hot bat as he recorded his second double, and third hit of the game, putting him on second with one out. After a come-backer fielded for the out by Montgomery, and an intentional walk to Gossett, Bridgeman flew out to right to end the inning for the Rebels.

The bottom of the fifth was the difference-maker in tonight’s game. All night long both coaches were making pinch-running changes, and really pulling out all the stops to try and scratch one run across, as they knew that is all it might take with the way the arms were throwing for both sides.

Blackmon doubled with one out in the inning to get things going for Sumter. The next batter was McFadden, who drew a walk. This at-bat was the difference-maker for a few reasons, and the main one was that now Gossett had to face off with Caldwell. Caldwell won the battle in this at-bat, driving a line drive into the gap in left center. Steven Duggar made a fantastic stop with a diving grab to cut the ball off in the gap, and he popped up to throw a dart to third, but McFadden was able to reach third and Caldwell strolled into second for a stand-up double and the first RBI of the game. The following pitch was a hard fastball in the dirt that got by the catcher for a wild pitch, scoring McFadden from third. Reardon then reached on a bunt back to Gossett, but was able to get around the tag from the first baseman who was going back to the bag after charging on the bunt. The Rebels were able to turn a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, but the damage had already been done with the Gamecocks scoring two runs.

Cunningham singled to start the sixth for the Rebels but he was forced out on a fielder’s choice. It was more of the same for Andrew Cleveland, and then Montgomery did it again with another strikeout looking with two outs. Gossett still had the fastball working, sitting 93 in the sixth inning where he got a ground ball out to second, and two more strikeouts to end the inning.

We headed into the seventh inning with Byrnes coming down to its final three outs of the season, and the Gamecocks just three outs away from the state title. The first batter of the inning grounded out to short. Rohlman did it again with another single on a bunt, this time down the first base line. He was followed by Duggar with a single into center. Rohlman moved to third on the play. Like we saw in the fifth with Gossett having to pitch to Caldwell, now Montgomery had to pitch to Gossett. This time the roles were reversed as Montgomery got the best of Gossett and was able to strike him out swinging. We were now down to the final out of the AAAA season, and the final batter Bridgeman grounded into a fielder’s choice to Caldwell at short to end the game. The celebration started as the Gamecocks took the victory in this best of three game series and become the AAAA State Champions.

For some video of the game, including the final play: WLTX video

To view DP’s live, in-game blog, click here.

All I can say is that these were definitely two of the best teams I have seen play in a long time. I witnessed both of them last season, as the team I was coaching was knocked out by Sumter on two unbelievable starts from Montgomery, and I then covered the final game of the AAAA Championship series with White Knoll. I can remember telling people that Byrnes would be back in 2011, and that the Gamecocks would be the team to beat in the lower state. Each of these teams have rosters that are loaded with talent of all ages, and good things will continue to come from these programs. Congratulations again to Coach Shumake and the Sumter Gamecocks on their Championship run here in 2011. This was the last game I am covering in 2011 for DP, and I can say that it was one of the best.

Final: Sumter 2 Byrnes 0  WP: Jordan Montgomery  LP: Daniel Gossett

-Prospect Information: Sumter Gamecocks-

montgomeryjordan10.jpgJordan Montgomery-Senior, USC signee, LHP: What else can we say about this young man? He was hands-down the best pitcher in the 2011 class this year. He was 2-0 in the State Championship Series, with a combined 14 strikeouts (10 in final game tonight), 2 walks (both intentional), and gave up 0 runs in 12 innings of work. I am not sure what that does to a 0.44 ERA, but it put the strikeout totals to 114 and 11 walks on the year. This was a great senior season for this lefty, who I saw early at the RBI tournament at White Knoll, and tonight he was even better. His fastball sat 88 in the first few frames, dropped around 86 in the middle innings, and then bumped right back up to 88 at the end of the game. The breaking ball was very sharp tonight and it came in from 71-74. Hands down he is the MVP in this championship series in my mind. Congratulations to him for his senior season, and look for him to compete for some innings early on in his career as he continues to be a Gamecock…but in Colucaldwellb-stance09.jpgmbia this time.

Bruce Caldwell-Senior, SMC signee, SS/RHP: I think in my previous write-up from Monday I put in his information that he can flat out hit, and man did he do that in a big way tonight. He came through in a big situation with a double to drive in the go-ahead run in the fifth. I can say that he is one of the best hitters that I have ever had the privilege to call pitches against, and see play over the past few years. If you make a mistake to him as a pitcher he is going to put the ball on the barrel and he is going to put a charge into it. Up the middle he has good range and has an above average arm. He makes tough plays look routine at times, and really has got a great foundation heading into the start of his collegiate career at SMC. Look for his numbers to be there over the next few years as a Pioneer.

Jeremy Buckner-Senior, Coastal Carolina signee, INF/RHP: Just a quick shout-out to Buckner, who was been sidelined for the Gamecocks due to a fracture, but that was not going to keep him completely out of the game. He puts a large cushioned pad on his arm and runs the bases as the designated runner for Blackmon the catcher. He was a big part in getting the Gamecocks to this point this year, and continued to help his team even with the broken bone. Good luck to him in 2012.

Michael Blackmon-Senior, USC-Sumter signee , C: Blackmon reached base tonight in blackmonm-hitting10.jpgevery plate appearance. He was walked, reached on an error, and then doubled in the fifth inning to get things going in their scoring inning. Blackmon also does a great job as a defensive catcher behind the plate. He is a good blocker and does a great job keeping the balls square on his chest to knock them down right in front of him. He is another part of a strong senior class with the 2011 State Champion Gamecocks.

Sumter Coaching Staff- Just wanted to say congratulations to all these guys as they really had their team ready to play from the beginning of this year and they continued to work hard and develop their players throughout their season. It was odd that I got to see them in their opening game vs Lexington, and tonight in their final game of the year. I will say that they are well-coached and Shumake and staff have built a strong winning program in Sumter.

-Prospect Information: Byrnes Rebels-

gossettdaniel-proday11.jpgDaniel Gossett-Senior, Clemson signee, RHP: Tonight was another strong performance from Gossett. He worked well out of jams throughout the entire game and then had innings like the fourth and sixth where he was untouchable. He is a complete package on the mound. Power arm with fastballs that range in the low-90’s, a power breaking pitch that ranges from 78-80, and also has a change/split that he throws in the 83-85 range. Tonight this was his out pitch. He is a competitor on the mound and never gives in, no matter what situation he is faced in. I still remember seeing him come in last year with the winning run on third and one out in the game at White Knoll…he struck out the next two batters on one day’s rest, and tonight we see him come back after getting hit a little on Monday and really threw a good game. He is rohlmanreed-stance11.jpggoing to have a decision to make come draft time, and no matter where he ends up this guy has got the make up to be a game changer for any team.

Reed Rohlman-Sophomore, Clemson commit, OF/LHP: Tonight was definitely the Rohlman show at the plate. He was 4-for-4 with 2 doubles and 2 bunt singles. On the first bunt single I got him down the line at 3.5, and then 3.68 the second time. He has quick hands, and also has power to all parts of the field. The best part about this player is that we get to see him for two more years in the Rebels uniform.

Byrnes Underclassmen: While the Rebels will be losing some big contributors from this title series team in 2011, they are going to return a strong group of underclassman in 2012, highlighted with Rohlman, Steven Duggar, Alex Cunningham, Anders DeShields, and Zach Bridgeman. They again are going to be the team to beat in their region, and will most likely be a strong contender in 2012.

Well this brings my 2011 season to a close. It was always a pleasure to bring SC high school baseball to everyone as much as I can. If you are a baseball person, make sure to get to Carolina Stadium for the 2011 Palmetto Games to get an early look at the top prospects for SC.