In the last scheduled inning of a baseball game Saturday afternoon at Spartanburg Methodist College, signs that read "1,000" were passed out for fans to hold up when head coach Tim Wallace, with 999 career victories, reached the milestone.
One problem: The score with USC Lancaster at Mooneyham Field was 3-3.
"I saw what was going on," Wallace said. "I was thinking, 'What if we lose this game? What if we lose the next game (second part of a doubleheader)? It's going to be disaster.' "
But two innings later, bottom of the ninth with two outs and Matt White on second base, Jordan Garrett from Chesnee High School ripped a shot past Wallace in the third-base coaching box and down the left-field line. Wallace signaled that it was a fair ball, waved White around and then calmly started walking to the dugout with career victory No. 1,000.
Wallace reached that monumental number in his 23rd season, third-fastest in junior college baseball history, behind only all-time leader Lloyd Simmons of Seminole State College (1,599) and Division I active leader Perry Keith of Connors State (1,285). Among coaches who have 1,000 wins, Wallace also owns the third-best winning percentage (.762), behind Simmons (.845) and Keith (.779).
"It's a milestone, but it's not about me," said Wallace, a former Wofford standout who will be inducted into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame during this season's JUCO World Series. "It's never about me. It's been about us. Early on, I thought we were playing tight and playing for me. It should never be that way."
Wallace may not have thought too much about the historic day in advance, but one player who did was pitcher Dylan Rogers from Union.
"Ever since the beginning of the season," Rogers said, "I knew I wanted to get that 1,000th win for Coach Wallace. I wanted it bad. I really did. I thought it would be something special. I wanted to be able to look back someday and know that I did that for the boss."
SMC (16-5) had swept a doubleheader on Wednesday and Rogers, despite two innings of work on that day, got the start he wanted with Wallace at 999.
And as it also turned out, the Pioneers would go up against a team coached by Steve Williams, who coached Wallace at Lancaster High School and in American Legion ball. They have been close ever since.
"When I got here today," Williams said, "I told Tim, 'Good luck on getting 1,000 next weekend. We're going to push it back.' "
USC Lancaster took advantage of two infield errors in the first inning to load the bases with nobody out. The Lancers unloaded them when, of all people, Ranz Bodison, a former SMC player who went to the World Series with the Pioneers last season, hit a two-run double. Another run scored on a groundout.
"I was a little frustrated," Rogers said.
What he did after that, however, was pitch all nine innings, apparently getting stronger as the game went on. He retired 12 of the last 13 batters and that one hit was an infield single in the seventh.
"I didn't want to come out of the game," he said, "until we won or my arm fell off."
"Dylan Rogers pitched his heart out," Wallace said. "You just can't say enough about Dylan's effort. That was huge."
USC Lancaster had a runner on second with nobody out in the sixth but was kept off the scoreboard when Brandon Burris made a sliding two-out catch in left field. First baseman John Leopard had a couple of sparkling plays in the eighth, making a tag after a throw from short pulled him off the bag and then scooping up a one-bouncer from third. Burris caught a fly ball to the wall for the final out of the ninth.
In the bottom half, White reached on a one-out single to right-center and took second when the throw to the infield got away. After a groundout, Garrett hit the first pitch into the history books.