Hartsville squeaks by Beaufort
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
While fans may love to see the glamourous and spectacular plays, it is the teams that can piece together just enough effective plays that not only win games, but win championships.
On Friday night the Hartsville Red Foxes baseball team gave us a prime example of a team that made the right plays in key situations of the game, propelling the Red Foxes to a 3-2 opening playoff win over the Beaufort Eagles at Jimmy White Park.
With hits seemingly coming at a minimum for both teams as both Hartsville and Beaufort finished the game with only six hits apiece, the game came down to which team made the least amount of mistakes and which team could manufacture the most runs.
That team of course was Hartsville. Outside of the score, which gave the Red Foxes a one-point victory, it was how the runs where scored that was even more impressive.
Hartsville’s first two runs of the game came in the first and third innings and in both innings the Red Foxes never got a base hit.
Instead, Hartsville capitalized on the Eagles pitching mistakes as Chandler Melton was able to hit RBI ground outs to the Beaufort shortstop in both the first and third innings.
“Both of Chandler’s RBIs were made by him being very unselfish,” Hartsville baseball head coach Tony Gainey said on Melton’s at bats. “He had two strikes on him, he came up on the bat and focused on getting the ball on the ground in play and he got two RBIs which basically won us the ball game.”
What were the miscues by the Beaufort pitching staff? Hit batsmen. In each inning Hartsville got its first base runner on by getting hit by a pitch and from there the Red Foxes were able to get the runners over to third before two outs.
“We work in b.p. (batting practice) all the time on situational hitting, hitting ground balls when you need them,” Melton said, commenting on his approach in both at bats. “We really weren’t hitting the ball that great tonight and I was fighting with two strikes in both at bats.”
Up 2-0, Hartsville extended its lead in the inning to 3-0 when designated hitter Christopher Weekly missed a home run by a mere few feet scoring Jake Beasley easily on the RBI double.
Beaufort finally answered the Red Foxes, but it was a major mistake on the base path that overshadowed anything else the Eagles did that inning.
With its leadoff hitter reaching on an error by Cal Brunson, the Red Foxes shortstop, Beaufort blasted a double that looked like it would easily score the Eagle baserunner, but that turned out not to be the case.
For some particular reason he held up at third and then decided to take back off for home, but by then it was too late. The relay throw had made it in to the infield and by the time he broke back for third catcher Nick Martin had picked him off.
While that was a devastating out for the Eagles, they persevered through the inning, scoring a run and loading the bases with two outs before starting pitcher, Toby Burchfield, got Hartsville out of the jam.
Getting out of bases loaded jams has been quite the thing for Burchfield over the past two games, who did the same thing the week before against the Darlington Falcons, except that time there were no outs and this time there were two.
“Last year I was in the closing role for this team and now since I’m starting when I get in situations like that it doesn’t bother me that much,” Burchfield said on what helps him keep his composure in tight situations. “I stay unfazed; I stay confident in my pitches to get out of it.”
Beaufort added one more run in the sixth inning, but that was all the Eagles could muster for the rest of the game as Matt Lynch came on in the seventh and closed out the game earning the save while Burchfield picked up the victory.
And while Hartsville earned the all-important opening victory of the district playoffs which is set up in a double elimination format, Gainey was disappointed in his team’s sluggishness, and contributes that sluggishness to them having the day off from school for a teacher professional development day.
“In my coaching career, both football and baseball, when they (players) are out of school they are going to sleep and come out and play sluggish and you just have to do something to shake the bushes and get them going,” Gainey said, commenting on his team not being quite as sharp as they have been for the whole season. “We got by that one.”
Now Hartsville must get by two more in its bid to advance to a second straight lower-state championship.
Lamar High School Silver Foxes had a tough loss on Friday losing to Fox Creek 0 – 1; the team faces Greer Middle College Monday night at home, after press time.
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