Darlington falls to Hartsville at home
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
It was not what the Darlington Falcons baseball team and their faithful fans had in mind when they took the field at home against the Hartsville Red Foxes on Friday night.
On a night when Darlington hoped to ride the momentum gained during the past week’s Southeastern baseball classic to get right back into the region race; the Red Foxes had other ideas, beating the Falcons 14-4 in five innings.
Hartsville broke a scoreless tie in the top of the second, scoring five runs in the top of the second inning off of six hits in the inning, three which were for extra bases. On the night, the Red Foxes pounded out 14 hits in five innings compared to the Falcons five hits.
“I think the theme of the game tonight was we get in there and we’re throwing balls over the middle of the plate early and they’re (Hartsville) sitting on them,” Darlington baseball head coach Billy Sylvester said on Hartsville’s hitting. “We got to locate better; we’re throwing strikes, but that isn’t the name of the game. When you’re playing a good team you have to be able to command it from both sides of the plate, and be able to get your breaking ball over.”
Making the start for Darlington was Dustin Knotts, somewhat of a surprise when most thought Bryant Huggins was going to take the mound for the Falcons.
“I thought Dustin got his breaking ball over pretty good,” Sylvester said on Knotts, who lasted 2 1/3 innings. “He was getting it over, but when you start getting behind in counts a little bit then he had to get in with his fastball over the heart of the plate and they hit it.”
It was not as though Darlington did not make contact with the ball, however. While starting pitcher Andrew Coker of the Red Foxes was strong, he finished with just five strikeouts. Instead, it was just a matter of the Falcons hits not finding the holes and gaps that Hartsville’s did.
“They hit the ball well,” Sylvester said, speaking on the difference between both teams offensively. “Their (Hartsville) balls found a hole and ours didn’t. We swung the bat pretty decent tonight; we hit some balls that were outs that were hit pretty hard and we had chances to score. We got four runs off of a pretty good pitcher.”
After getting up 5-0 through two innings Hartsville pushed three more runs across in the top of the third, the first of three, three-run innings as the Red Foxes scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings as well.
“We hit the ball,” Hartsville baseball head coach Tony Gainey said on his team’s offensive prowess against Darlington. “That’s what we did work on, we worked on hitting. We worked on hitting, our situational stuff that we stress a bunch, making productive outs. It seemed like we kind of got away from that during the tournament (SBC).”
Down 8-0, the Falcons tried to show some fight scoring two runs in both the third and fourth. In the third, with two outs on a Hartsville error, an infield single by Melquan Depugh and a pass ball by Red Fox catcher Nick Martin allowed pinch-runner Jaret Boswell to score, knocking the goose egg off the board for Darlington.
Following Boswell scoring on the pass ball, Darlington’s Garrett Revell made Hartsville pay for the extra outs, hitting a RBI single, his second hit of the game, scoring Depugh from third.
In the fourth inning, Darlington looked more like itself at the plate as the first two Falcons reached base, with Justin Mack leading the inning off with a double and Eric Dubose reaching on a Hartsville error, the second of the game for the Red Foxes.
With two men on and just one out, Taylor Spangler legged out an infield single, scoring Mack from third. After another pass ball by Coker allowed both Dubose and Spangler to move up one base, Ladson Carter hit a RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring the Falcons fourth and final run of the game.
After Hartsville answered in the top of the fifth, scoring three runs and increasing the Hartsville lead to 10 runs, the Falcons needed to score at least one run if the game was going to continue.
That was not to be, however, as Coker allowed only one hitter, pinch-hitter Cayde Weatherford to reach on Red Foxes third error of the game. Coker finished the game with the next hitter, striking Mack out.
With the loss Darlington’s record is 9-5 overall and 4-2 in the region. The Falcons have two important region games this week, both on the road, with the first against Marlboro County, who won in the first meeting and the Lakewood Gators, who Darlington beat in the first matchup.
“Would we like to win region? Yeah. Can we win the region, absolutely,” Sylvester said on the outlook for the rest of the season. “We still got a chance to win it. Now we may need some help here and there, but if we come through and do what we are supposed to do we got a chance to win it.”
Those chances start against Marlboro County and Lakewood this week.
Darlington won one game this week, beating Manning 13-1 while their game against Marion was cancelled.