CONWAY — In the span of 1 hour and 21 minutes Monday night, the Conway baseball team went from outside the playoff picture looking in to being in pretty good shape.
The Tigers, behind 15 strikeouts from starting pitcher Grant Holmes, beat Sumter 2-1 and moved from fourth place in Region VI-AAAA to a tie for second with the Gamecocks.
And while last week’s opponents in the Mingo Bay tournament may not have put up much fight, this Conway team certainly had a different feel than the one that dropped two of three to region fifth-place team South Florence just before spring break.
“I think we can play with anybody if we play well,” coach Anthony Carroll said. “If we can play well at the end of the year, that’s when you want to play your best. Hopefully we’re moving in that direction and the roller-coaster ride is over.”
Conway didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard against the Gamecocks. But much like West Florence rarely has to do with highly scouted hurler Akeem Bostick or Sumter with Clemson commitment Charlie Barnes, the Tigers didn’t need to be electric Monday.
Holmes, a junior who verbally committed to Florida earlier this year, did more than enough damage. He struck out at least two batters in every inning. He helped his own cause in the bottom of the sixth when he earned a walk, stole second and then scored the go-ahead on Bryce McCord’s RBI double.
He then closed out the game himself with two strikeouts and a harmless fly ball in the top of the seventh. Holmes allowed just three hits – three consecutive singles in the fourth that led to the Gamecocks’ only run.
“When we have the right attitude, we get it done,” Holmes said before alluding to what the team has to do in its final five region games. “We have to go after them, show them what we’re about and show them what we can do.”
The victory, coupled with Carolina Forest’s 9-1 loss to West Florence on Monday evening, means Conway (12-5 overall, 4-3 region) needs just two wins in its final region contests to guarantee itself a playoff berth. The Tigers own the head-to-head tie-breaker against Carolina Forest (4-6 region), and with one more victory this week, will also have that tiebreaker over Sumter.
Still, Conway isn’t hoping to back into the playoffs. The Tigers will likely face Barnes on the road on Wednesday before returning home for the series finale Friday. That will lead into the final week of the regular season – and a much-anticipated matchup against region-leading West Florence (6-1).
“I think they know where they stand,” Carroll said of his team. “After losing to South Florence, this was a sad place to be for all of us. But they figured out the only thing they can do is control themselves.”
W – Grant Holmes. L – Will Smith. Top hitters – Sumter: Tee Dubose 1-3, Run; Smith 1-3, RBI. Conway: Bryce McCord 1-2, 2B, BB, RBI; Jordan Gore 1-2, HBP, RBI; Wilson Mishoe 1-2, Run.
Records: Sumter 11-7, 4-3 Region VI-AAAA; Conway 12-5, 4-3
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.