Only a handful of schools in South Carolina have won state championships in both baseball and softball in the same year.
The two squads at Lewisville High School are trying to add their school to the short list this season and legitimately could do so.
Neither has lost to 1A or 2A competition. State-ranked 4A South Pointe handed Lewisville’s baseball team two of its three losses. One of Lewisville softball's two losses came in a spring break tournament to a 6A school from Virginia with several college-bound prospects. Both squads' other defeat came against 3A Indian Land.
Pitching has been crucial to success on both diamonds. The baseball Lions' hurlers have thrown five shutouts so far and have allowed three runs or fewer 12 times.
“We've had some great teams but this is the best pitching depth we've had,” said coach Billy Keels, whose team has already progressed to its district championship game on Monday.
Before we go in every game, we expect to win. Because we grind out here every day. Winning state would be something we could look back on and tell our kids about.
Lewisville baseball senior Mike Hill
Their softball counterparts, whose pitching consists mostly of Chloe Thomas, have blanked 10 opponents. But Thomas does not feel pressure to do it all by herself.
“Our defense is 10 times better than in the past,” she said.
Thomas missed last year's playoffs after breaking her leg in a charity kickball event, but she says she will not be playing anything besides softball this spring. Her team opens postseason play Saturday at home against Blackville-Hilda.
The two teams try to match each other in winning streaks. The boys won 16 in a row at one point and are ranked No. 1 in the state, while the ladies started their season by rattling off 15 straight and are No. 3 statewide.
The two units not only are close in the numbers and how they have performed, but they are close off the field as well. Several of them said they keep up with how the other team is doing and rib each other about the results.
“We've got classes together and we see each other every day,” baseball player Garrison Hyatt said. “We'll say 'how'd y'all do last night?' We want to be just as good as them and they want to be just as good as us.”
I say it started two or three years ago. We've always had good teams and always been able to go far in the playoffs, so every year we try and see who can go the farthest. It's really a competition, honestly.
Baseball senior Drew Colvin, on competition between Lewisville’s baseball and softball squads
There are about five couples between the two teams that are currently dating each other. One of those couples is Thomas and fellow pitcher Trey Keels, both of whom wear No. 8 jerseys and call their head coach "Dad" away from the field. The two have known each other since sixth grade. They each threw a no-hitter this season, just days apart.
They have discussed what it would be like to both win state titles.
“The girls sports here don't really win a lot,” Thomas said. “So the boys walk around like they own the school.”
Getting down to business
For Lewisville softball coach Jerry Thomas, an alumni of the school, winning is as much a part of his roots as Richburg is. He played on state championship football teams under Jimmy Wallace and Bennie McMurray in the mid-1980s, so he knows what it takes.
"I try to put the school pride in them,” Thomas said. “It would be special for these ladies. There haven't been many female state championships here. It's always been a male dominated school. I tried to mold what I did when I played here, what Larry Davis did when he won his (basketball) state championship, and what Billy Keels has been doing. I've experienced it twice and there's not another feeling like it, knowing you're state champions. It's something they'll remember forever."
The big difference between Lewisville’s baseball and softball squads is state titles. The baseball team has won six championships, the most recent coming in 2010 under Keels.
"We've already been there and played for state, so the nerves are all gone," the younger Keels said. "It's just about getting down to business."
I told him a couple weeks ago that this isn't about me. I've already got a ring. So don't feel like you're going to let me down if you don't win it. But yeah it would be special.
Lewisville baseball coach Billy Keels, talking to his son about winning a state title
The softball Lions are 39-2 in region play with five championships in as many years, but have yet to crack through the Upper State tournament.
“We've been here since seventh grade and every year we've worked towards that and we get closer and closer to state,” senior outfielder Tori Ernandez said.
Could this be the year that both sets of Lions get sized for championship rings?
“We've been planning this with them the last three years,” softball catcher Emily Morton said. “I think this is the year we can do it. We're confident. But I think if you don't feel pressure then you're not in it to win it.”
Schools that won baseball and softball state championships in the same season
5A: Gaffney (2009), Stratford (1996), Lexington (1992)
3A: Brookland-Cayce (2000 and 1998)
1A: Latta (2015)