Northwestern's Wesley Sweatt had the kind of first inning pitching Thursday afternoon that might prompt the uninitiated viewer to wonder, "this kid is a hot shot Division I signee?"
Gaffney led off with a double, then singled and drew a walk off Sweatt to load the bases with just one out. Sweatt got a ground ball out – that scored a run – before striking out a Gaffney batter to end the inning. He stared at the grass as he walked to the dugout.
From there, the South Carolina signee mowed down the next 20 Indians batters in a row. Jordan Starkes and Rob Hughes produced RBI singles in the bottom of the fifth inning to push Northwestern in front, 3-1, a lead they never seemed in danger of relinquishing because of Sweatt’s dominance.
He rammed his fastball into awkward but irresistible locations, or whipped the bottom out of a slider as Gaffney batters nearly came out of their cleats, or just stood and watched.
Sweatt was Northwestern’s closer in 2017, a new role for him that probably wasn't his preferred position. How Sweatt truly felt about that position isn’t clear. He’s very polite and said only, “I do whatever Coach (Mitch) Walters wants me to do.”
And he did his job well, posting eight saves, including four during the Trojans' run to the 5A state championship.
But when standout lefty John Gilreath decided to graduate high school early and enroll at South Carolina, it left a void in the Trojans’ already formidable starting pitching unit. Sweatt slotted in effortlessly and ensured that the Trojans still have one of the best pitching staffs in the state, alongside Furman signee Hughes, Citadel signee Cameron Reeves, USC-Lancaster signee Ethan Martinez and sophomore Dustin Noller.
Sweatt is 3-0 and allowed just one hit in a complete game shutout last week against Nation Ford. He said one major difference as a starter is having time to prepare mentally and physically, which helps him pitch his best.
"My arm feels good. I can trust my stuff, throw my fastball for strikes, have good command of that, have good command of my slider and my curveball," said Sweatt. "Still working on my change-up."
Indian Land 6, Northwestern 0
Nolan Bolt and Indian Land took a 4-0 lead after four innings and went on to claim a 6-0 win over Northwestern in the Wheels tournament at Northwestern Thursday night.
Jay Hildreth led Indian Land with a pair of hits and two RBI. Bolt and Lawson Otte added two hits each to the Indian Land attack, and Chase Dougherty got one hit and drove in one run. Bolt tossed a complete game and picked up the victory. He allowed only two hits and struck out seven.
Bolt, a former College of Charleston commitment, also announced on Twitter shortly after the game that he'll be playing his first year of college baseball at Pitt Community College. Indian Land coach Joey Robinson said that Bolt qualified academically for NCAA Division I, so he can transfer from Pitt after one year if he gets the offer he wants. Coaches from Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian College had their radar guns honed on Bolt during Thursday night's game at Northwestern. Bolt was slinging the pill in the high 80s. He's got 61 strikeouts in 37 innings and a 0.93 ERA.
Carolina Royals 6, South Pointe 3
The Carolina Royals built a 5-0 lead after two innings and topped South Pointe 6-3 in the Wheels tournament at South Pointe Thursday afternoon. Dreu Bodiford led South Pointe's effort with three hits. Ty Good and Trey Prince had one hit and one RBI each.
Fort Mill 11, South Pointe 1
Fort Mill scored seven runs in the fourth inning and went on to defeat South Pointe 11-1 in the Wheels tournament at South Pointe Thursday night.
When the seven-run outburst was over, Fort Mill led 11-1. Justin Kerosetz, Logan Stone, and Shayne Boyle led Fort Mill's 11 hit attack with two hits each.
Mikey Tepper picked up the victory. He worked four innings and allowed only two hits, while striking out six.
Northwestern 17, Charlotte Stampede 8
Northwestern took a 9-1 lead after three innings and routed the Charlotte Stampede 17-8 in the Wheels tournament at Northwestern Wednesday afternoon.
Jordan Starkes led Northwestern with a pair of hits and three RBI. Ryan Brown added one hit and drove in four runs. Ethan Martinez pitched five innings and got the victory. He struck out four.
Woodrow Wilson 11, Indian Land 10
Woodrow Wilson scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth and got a come-from-behind 11-10 win over Indian Land in the Wheels tournament at Northwestern Wednesday night.
Indian Land scored six times in the top of the fifth to take a 10-0 lead. Woodrow Wilson rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut it to 10-4. Daniel Gueldner led Indian Land with three hits and a pair of runs batted in. Nolan Bolt added three hits, and Jay Hildreth got one hit and drove in three runs.
Georgia Premier Academy 5, Fort Mill 4
Georgia Academy scored twice in the top of the seventh and edged Fort Mill 5-4 in the Wheels tournament at South Pointe Wednesday afternoon.
Fort Mill tallied four times in the fifth frame to take a 4-2 lead, but Georgia got one in the sixth before winning it in the seventh. Justin Kerosetz led Fort Mill with two hits. Connor Manco added one hit and drove in two runs.
Midland Valley 5, South Pointe 4
Midland Valley scored two runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-3 lead and hung on for a 5-4 decision over South Pointe in the Wheels tournament at South Pointe Wednesday afternoon.
Midland Valley made the most of six hits to claim the victory. Brandon Paradise led Midland Valley with three hits and three RBI. Jarod Bascio was the top hitter for South Pointe with a pair of hits and one run batted in. Ty Good took the loss for South Pointe despite a six inning outing that netted 11 strikeouts.
Rock Hill wins two, loses one
Rock Hill has a 2-1 record after three days of play in the Mingo Bay Tournament.
Rock Hill got the tournament started on Tuesday with a 3-1 decision over Pigeon Forge (Tenn.).
Rock Hill made the most of only six hits in getting the victory. They scored in the second inning to tie it at 1-1, and added insurance runs in the fifth and seventh frames. Allen Coye led Rock Hill with two hits and one RBI. Garrett Gwin added a pair of hits to the winning effort. Charleston Southern signee R. J. Petit tossed a complete game and got the win. He allowed only five hits, struck out 10 and, according to a Tweet from a fan at the game, hit 93 miles per hour on one pitch.
Rock Hill won its second outing by a count of 11-1 over Brockport (N.Y.) on Wednesday afternoon. Rock Hill collected 10 hits and broke the game open early with a seven-run rally in the second inning. Noah Chapman led Rock Hill with three hits and three runs batted in. Blake Sherrill added three hits and drove in a pair of runs.
Sherrill pitched five innings and got the win. He scattered seven hits and struck out five.
St. James collected eight hits and topped Rock Hill 5-1 in Thursday's contest.
St. James took a 3-0 lead after three innings and went on from there for the victory. Petit led Rock Hill with one hit and one run batted in. Sherrill and Chapman got one hit each for Rock Hill. Jackson Timmons took the loss for Rock Hill.
Rock Hill is 12-6 overall on the year.
Lewisville wins twice
Lewisville picked up a couple of one-sided wins to improve to 2-1 in the Mingo Bay Tournament.
They routed Sherman (W.Va.) 11-1 on Wednesday and pounded Pike View (W.Va.) 12-0 on Thursday.
In the win over Sherman, Jack Jordan got the victory with five strong innings on the mound. Rhett Cox struck out 10 in four innings to get the decision against Pike View. Lewisville is 13-4 overall on the year.
Nation Ford gets a win and a loss
Nation Ford got a win and a loss in its first two games in the Upstate Classic. The Falcons lost to Palmetto Christian 10-2 on Wednesday, and then came back on Thursday to top Westside 13-3.
Palmetto Christian broke a 2-2 tie with six runs in the fifth to take an 8-2 lead and pick up the victory.
Nation Ford pounded out a dozen hits in the victory over Westside. They took a 5-1 lead after two innings and tacked on six more in the fourth to put the game away.
Evan Lammers led Nation Ford with three hits and Davis Hobbs and J. D. Schumaker added two hits each to the Nation Ford attack. Derek Sivec picked up the win. Nation Ford is 10-6 overall on the year.
Clover splits a pair of games
Clover split its final two games in the Shelby Tournament to finish 1-2 in the event. Clover defeated Watauga (NC), but lost to Kings Mountain (N.C.) 23-13.
Clover collected 10 hits in an 8-5 win over Watauga on Thursday afternoon. Clover rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 8-3 lead. Justin Wolf led Clover with three hits and two RBI. Kolby Crepeau added two hits and drove in a pair of runs. Bo Bodine got the win in relief.
Kings Mountain pounded out 18 hits in handing Clover a 23-13 loss on Wednesday afternoon. Kings Mountain tallied 12 runs in the third inning to take a 13-8 lead and go on from there for the win.
David Bell led Kings Mountain with five hits and four RBI. Crepau was the top hitter for Clover with four hits and five RBI. Bodine added four hits for Clover. Clover is 6-12 overall on the year.
Lancaster 2, Buford 1
Lancaster scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh and nipped Buford 2-1 in a non-region game Tuesday night in Lancaster. The Bruins are 7-13 overall on the year.
Greenbrier Christian 4, Lewisville 3
Greenbrier Christian (W.Va.) edged Lewisville 4-3 in the Grand Strand Softball Classic Wednesday afternoon.
Greenbrier took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but Lewisville countered with single runs in the second, third, and fourth frames for a 3-2 lead. Greenbrier got two runs in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead and hold on for the win.
Codi Horne led Lewisville with three hits, and Amber Bass added two hits, including a triple. Alexis Odom got a double for Lewisville, which finished the tournament with a 2-2 record. Lewisville is 15-4 overall on the year.
Clover wins twice
Clover defeated Gilbert and Gaffney in the Palmetto Cup Tournament in Columbia Wednesday afternoon.
They toppled Gilbert 4-0 and routed Gaffney 7-0.
Clover took a 1-0 halftime lead against Gilbert and broke it open in the second half. They led 2-0 at halftime against Gaffney and added five second half goals for the one-sided win. Clover finished the tournament with a record of 3-0-1. They are 11-4-1 overall on the year.
Andrew Jackson 3, Lancaster 2
Andrew Jackson took a 2-0 lead at intermission and went on to defeat Lancaster 3-2 in a non-region match at Lancaster Thursday night. Lancaster is 6-9 overall on the year.
Weddington 7, Fort Mill 6 (OT)
Weddington edged Fort Mill 7-6 in six overtimes in a non-region game at Weddington Thursday night. Fort Mill is 8-3 overall on the year.
Nation Ford 6, Savannah Christian 5
Nation Ford took a 2-1 lead at halftime and topped Savannah Christian 6-5 in a non-region game at Savannah Christian Wednesday night. Nation Ford is 4-7 overall on the year.