Hartsville looks to return to the top of Region 6
By Drake Horton
For the first time in over six years last year, the Hartsville Red Foxes were not region champions. Instead, they tied for second, snapping a region championship winning streak that dated back to 2012. And for the first time in five years Hartsville lost a region game.
That was last year, however, and this year is a different story. It’s a new region with big challenges and lots of competition. But head coach Tony Gainey thinks with the right combination this team can get back to winning region championships.
“It will be a very tough region; there is a lot of good competition,” Gainey said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit with the offense right now; if we could get the offense rolling, get people producing. I think our pitching is going to be good enough; I think our defense is good enough. If they can be consistent with it, then yeah, I think we can.”
Right now the offense is sluggish, but the pitching is not. While left-hander Garret Gainey returns from injury, it is a newcomer who has really helped solidify the rotation: Lamar transfer Mykal Mack. “He has turned into being a very reliable No. 2,” Gainey said.
And while pitching is currently the team’s strength, it still has its weaknesses and the biggest one, according to Gainey, is the pitchers are walking too many batters. “The key is throwing strikes.
We can’t afford to walk a lot of people. That has been somewhat of a hangnail for us; we’ve been walking people.”
Besides getting his pitchers to be more consistent at throwing strikes, Gainey is working on getting his hitters to be more consistent at the plate.
From their approach at the plate to their ability to make productive outs, the Red Fox hitters have struggled early this year at being able to manufacture runs.
“Approach at the plate, productive outs, you can score runs with productive outs instead of pop ups, striking out,” Gainey said. “We have been striking out way too much.”
For a team capable of winning the region, Gainey seems to paint something of a grim picture, but that is just the coach in him.
He has an even longer list of how he thinks his team should improve throughout the season.
“More consistent on defense, we have lapses; make the routine plays, pitchers throw strikes, make the other team earn everything they get and offensively be more focused on getting the little things done. You can win ball games without 12 base hits.”
Gainey expects a lot out of the team, but when you have won six region titles in seven years, that becomes the norm. Now he and the Red Foxes will look to capture a seventh in eight years.