Hartsville scores nine runs in final three innings to beat Darlington
By Drake Horton
Sometimes it just takes one moment to decide a game, and the Darlington Falcons against the Hartsville Red Foxes baseball game this past Friday had that exact moment.
Following Hartsville’s two-run fourth inning, Darlington came into the fifth and looked as if it could not only tie the game, but take the lead after the Falcons loaded the bases with no outs.
That was not to be the case. Instead, Hartsville baseball head coach Tony Gainey went out to the mound to talk to starting pitcher Toby Burchfield following the walk of Melquan Depugh that loaded bases, and whatever Gainey said worked because Burchfield struck out the next batters and got the final to fly out to center field to end the inning
“I went out asked him if he was ok and he said ‘I’m fine’ and I said well these are those moments when you have to work out if we are going to be successful so let’s do it,” Gainey said, referencing to what he said to Burchfield and the rest of the team during the fifth inning.
To add insult to injury, after loading the bases with no outs Darlington had its two, three and four hitters which are Garrett Revell, Justin Mack and Ladson Carter, making what Burchfield did even more impressive.
“We swung at bad pitches and took good ones,” Darlington baseball head coach Billy Sylvester said on his team’s inability to score in the fifth. “In that situation we have to be more aggressive and we can’t take fastballs down the heart (of the plate) and we can’t take bad swings at those pitches.”
And that was that moment. That was that moment that in all ways, shapes, and forms ended the Falcons chance of upsetting the Red Foxes on their own field.
Entering the game, Hartsville had not lost a region game and by most have been seen as the favorite to win 3A state championship. For Darlington, who was playing its last regular season game of the season, it was an opportunity to gain momentum as the playoffs are set to begin this week.
With nothing to lose as the third spot in the region was already secured and everything to gain Darlington brought its “A” game into Kelleytown as starting pitcher Bryant Huggins took the mound for the Falcons.
“Hats off to that kid (Huggins),” Gainey said on Huggins pitching performance against his team. “He did really well; he really located his pitches tonight, kept us off balance. He did really well; I was impressed with the Huggins kid.”
For three innings Huggins shut down a Hartsville offense that has been pretty explosive for most of the season, but as the pitch count began to creep up and fatigue began to set in, the Red Fox offense found their opportunity.
“We learned in the SBC that when you face a really good pitcher you have to work his count,” Gainey said on his team’s approach at the plate against Huggins. “I just got through telling them that they did a really good job of not going out and swinging at everything.”
It came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Burchfield, with two outs, helped his own cause reaching and keeping the inning alive. Cal Brunson followed Burchfield by picking a walk and giving Hartsville two men on with two outs.
Those two hitters reaching seemed like it created a chain reaction of events as Huggins threw a wild pitch to Matt Lynch, the next hitter, allowing both runners to advance to scoring position before Lynch, himself, delivered with the two-RBI single to center field.
It was as if scoring those two runs awoke the Red Fox offense, as the bottom of the fifth was almost a mirror image of the fourth.
After getting the first two outs of the inning, Hartsville’s Grant Thompson walked and Austin Morris singled giving the Red Foxes two runners on with two outs. That set up a double steal which put both runners in scoring position. Chandler Melton followed with a two-RBI double just out of the reach of Jaret Boswell’s diving attempt.
Up 4-0, Hartsville exploded in the bottom half of the sixth inning adding five more runs. Burchfield retired all three Darlington hitters he faced in the seventh and finished the night with 10 strikeouts.
With the loss Darlington’s record finishes at 12-8 and third in the region. Now the Falcons prepare go to on the road for the playoffs as the ultimate goal of winning a state championship.