A quick start and turbulent ending define Darlington’s win over Wilson
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
A productive first inning and a shaky seventh inning were the major story lines for Darlington against the Wilson Tigers this past Tuesday, February 27, at home in an early preseason tourney as the Falcons went on to win 5-3.
Darlington plated three runs in the first inning, one in the second and one more in the sixth to help build a 5-1 lead going into the seventh.
“We took advantage of some of their early mistakes,” Darlington head coach Dennis Gearhart said after the game. “They gave us some free passes early in the game and we took advantage of those. After that the offense kind of stalled out a little bit. We generated one run in the second then we went three innings where we left a bunch of guys on base. We had to generate one run in the sixth by stealing second, bunting them up and glad we did because it about came back to haunt us.”
Anthony Hopkins, the Falcons starting pitcher, completely shut down the Tigers offense except for one run in the second inning.
That changed in a hurry in the seventh inning. Down by four and with Hopkins dealing it looked like Wilson had no hope, but a leadoff single, a botched run down attempt and a walk forced a pitching change due to pitch count and this is when things really became dicey for the Falcons.
“We made some errors early that cost Hopkins some pitches that he shouldn’t have had to throw. It’s real important to keep that pitch count down,” Gearhart said, referencing to why he had to pull his starter in the seventh inning with a four-run lead.
Coming in to replace Hopkins was Keyshawn Taylor, a returning pitcher from last season and right from the start he was not given any help.
A poorly played ground ball from the first batter he faced resulted in an infield single setting up the Tigers to capitalize with a two-RBI single to follow.
With momentum riding strong on Wilson’s side and no outs, plus a runner on third, things were not looking good for the Falcons, but as quickly as the game had turned in the favor of Wilson it quickly swung back in Darlington’s favor with the next Tiger batter.
Down two runs and desperately trying to capitalize on the situation that was present, Wilson decided to get creative and call a suicide squeeze to go ahead and get that fourth run across the plate.
For all intents and purposes it was a great call and Darlington was not prepared for it. Unfortunately, however, the hitter for Wilson did not seem too prepared for it either, pulling the bat back on the bunt attempt leaving the base runner hung out to dry as he came sprinting towards home.
Following that detrimental mistake, the Tigers’ batter when down swinging and quickly Wilson went from having no outs to two.
But there was still hope. With a runner on second, Wilson’s next batter came through with a single and once again the Tigers’ head coach went aggressive sending the runner home but a perfect throw from Darlington’s left fielder was easily in time, ending the game.
Darlington’s three runs in the first inning came off of a RBI sacrifice fly by Quay Gandy and a fielder’s choice off of a Chase Weatherford grounder that turned into throwing error by Wilson’s shortstop, resulting in two more runs scoring.
Mike Dixon, who was Darlington’s leading hitter for the night, had a RBI single to center field in the second inning and the Falcons scored their fifth and final run in the bottom of the sixth inning with a RBI sacrifice fly by Gage Weatherford.
Despite Darlington’s five runs, Gearhart thought his team left way too many runners on base, especially runners in scoring position. He attributed this as the main reason why the Falcons were only able to score one more run for the entire game after scoring four in the first two innings.
“We have to learn to finish baseball games and we have to do a better job of driving in runs when we get guys in scoring position,” Gearhart said. “We left way too many guys out there tonight.
Wilson’s lone run, before its two-run seventh, came in the top of the second inning when the Falcons committed three straight errors leading to the unearned run.