Sumter’s Charlie Barnes had an impressive Forest Acres Classic.
He pitched the Gamecocks into the championship game with 13 strike outs in a shutout victory against A.C. Flora on Wednesday night. In the title game, his three-run home run in the third inning propelled the Gamecocks to a 4-2 victory against Wesleyan (N.C.) Christian Thursday night at A.C. Flora’s Falcon Field.
That was enough to earn the MVP award for the Clemson commitment.
“He had such a great tournament,” Sumter coach Brooks Shumake said. “He threw a great game the other night, and he’s seeing the ball well and swinging it well right now. He had two at-bats tonight that were as good as you will see.”
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Barnes was 2-for-2, and his home run proved the difference. The Trojans (11-4) jumped to a 2-0 in the top of the third on an RBI single by Johnny Rollins and sacrifice fly from Ryan Clinch.
But Barnes made that lead short-lived. Jacob Watcher was hit by a pitch and Javon Martin reached on a error that could have gotten Wesleyan Christian out of the inning. The left-handed hitting Barnes fell into an 0-2 hole and battled back into a full count before he blasted his second home run of the season near the flag pole in right-center field.
“After I got two strikes, I was trying to keep it simple and hit something back up the middle,” Barnes said. “Once it got 3-2, he came with an inside fastball that I was able to square up.”
The Gamecocks (16-2-1) added an insurance run in the fifth with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. Ian McCaffrey scored from third when Martin bunted toward the mound.
Sumter also got solid pitching from Chris Crawford and Jacob Watcher.
“We made pitches when we had to, and get a big double play ball there at the end,” Shumake said. “Those guys battled when they had runners in scoring position. We made things interesting, but that’s what makes this game so unique.”
Wesleyan coach Scott Davis said his team got those key hits in the first two games of the tournament. They left nine runners on base with six in scoring position.
“We’ve been getting those hits all week and tonight we just weren’t able to get it done,” Davis said. “They pitched the ball well. You can’t take anything away from that club.”
This is the second Forest Acres championship for Sumter in the 10 seasons of the tournament. The Gamecocks, the top ranked team in Class 4A, won it in 2008 and beat a talented field in 2014. They knocked off Lexington and the host Falcons in the first two rounds, the defending state champions in Class 4A and 3A, respectively.
Shumake believes playing in this tournament prepares his team for the playoffs that begin in two weeks.
“This makes us a lot better,” Shumake said. “Every arm we saw this week was pretty good. It’s a real competitive tournament with quality teams. Every time you step on the field here, you have to scratch and claw to get a win.”