It was a back-and-forth battle all the way through, as both teams traded a run in the first inning with a Sydney Howard single to center putting the Cougars on the board. South Florence took control in the ensuing two frames, getting to Colleton ace Whitley Weathers with a run in the second inning before adding three more in the third to go up 5-1.
But the resilient Cougars got it all back in the home half. Bailey Cox scored Shandi Brown on an infield single, Jordan Slocum picked up an RBI groundout, and Shamorie Overton tied it up with a two-out line drive to center field.
The Bruins retook the lead with a run in the fourth and fifth innings, looking to force a second and decisive game for the district title. But the Cougars weren’t going to let that happen. Slocum started the sixth with a single and touched home to cut the lead to one, and Weathers came through at the plate in the seventh, fighting off a 1-2 pitch into left field to score Brown and tie the game at 7. Makayla Chisolm poked in a two-out single to put the winning run in scoring position, but a sharp lineout brought the contest into extra innings.
The Cougars couldn’t cash in on another opportunity to win it in the eighth, as Overton was stranded on third base as a fielder’s choice extended the game. An outfield error in the top of the ninth gave the Bruins an 8-7 lead, but Colleton County executed the offense perfectly in the bottom half to even things again. With Cox placed on second to begin the frame, Weathers laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner over to third, and Howard tapped a grounder to third base as Cox scampered home to knot the district-championship thriller at 8.
Neither squad could find a run in the 10th, but South Florence took the lead back in the top of the 11th on the Cougars’ seventh error of the contest to bring a 9-8 lead into the bottom half. With three outs left to avoid a second game, Weathers got the rally started with Cox on second base, drawing a four pitch walk to put the winning run on first. After a popout failed to advance the two runners, Chisolm sizzled a grounder to center field and Cox turned for home looking for the tie. As the runner darted to the plate, center fielder Larissa Siders fired a beauty to MaKayla Arceneaux and retired Cox to keep the lead intact, putting Colleton County down to its final out. But the Cougars came right back at the Bruins on the next at-bat. Slocum loaded the bases with a scalded line drive to left field, and Overton snuck in an infield single to score Weathers and tie the game at 9 runs apiece.
Bases loaded, two outs, tie ballgame. It’s the moment that every player grew up dreaming of, and Kennedy seized the opportunity. After going down 0-2 in the count, the Cougar hero delivered, knocking in a base hit to capture the district championship in an incredible 10-9 triumph.
Weathers put together an unbelievable performance on the mound to lead Colleton County to victory, throwing all 11 innings and 146 pitches while allowing just four earned runs against a loaded South Florence lineup. Overton came up huge from the seven-spot in the lineup, going 3-for-4 with three RBI. Howard was 2-for-6 with a pair of runs driven in while Weathers, Chisolm, and Slocum all collected two hits apiece.
Colleton County (18-0) advances to the Lower State championship and will face off with Darlington in a best-of-three series with a trip to the state finals on the line. The Cougars will host Game 1 on Monday before hitting the road for Game 2 on Wednesday. If necessary, a deciding Game 3 will be held on Friday at a neutral site.
By Wes Kerr