Sheldon Neuse didn’t need many throws from pitcher Dee Jenkins to swing for the fences Monday night.
With two out of a possible 10 outs on him in the final round of the South Atlantic League’s Home Run Derby, Neuse cranked his fourth home run of the final round beside the left field foul pole.
It was all the Hagerstown Suns infielder needed to get past West Virginia Power second baseman Trae Arbett, who posted three homers in his final at-bat at Spirit Communications Park.
Neuse, a right-handed batter and opposite-field hitter, looked at the 382 feet sign in right center and said he knew he needed to pull the ball into left field if he wanted to win.
“I told our pitching coach that you can’t throw to me today, because I can’t pull it,” Neuse said. “I had to get another guy.”
That other guy turned out to be Jenkins, a former minor leaguer who lives in Columbia.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Neuse said. “He kept feeding it up and in, and I was able to get the barrel to it. To pull the ball like that, I haven’t done in a while and it felt pretty good.”
Arbett led the second round with five homers and seven points, enough for Neuse to be concerned.
“The other guys were hitting the ball, and it was kind of scaring me a little in the second round,” he said. “But I was able to get the ball elevated and hit ’em out.”
Neuse delivered a seven-homer, nine-point round to cruise into the final round against Arbett.
Fireflies second baseman Michael Paez made the first cut with five homers, but hit just one over the fence to make the final contest between Neuse and Arbett.
In the high school derby, Gaffney’s Houston Wright bested Pelion’s Dalton Smith, 4-2.
In the Celebrities vs. Soldiers Softball Game, the Soldiers won 1-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, with one out and one on, pitcher Corey Miller walked two batters to load the bases. A groundout enabled the run to score.
At third base, Drew Meyer had four putouts and was in on a 5-4-3 double play.
“It was a lot of fun,” Meyer said. “It was good time to get out here and kick it up, shake it up on defense and make a couple of plays.”
Pokey Reese, Miller, Joe Cook and Marcus Lattimore had one hit apiece for the Celebrities.
“I haven’t played baseball or softball ever,” Lattimore said. “It was fun though, it was a great experience. No matter who you are, the fans come out and support the Fireflies and what they do for the community.”