Darlington beats Pee Dee with late-inning heroics
By Drake Horton
Darlington Post 13 picked up yet another extra-inning win this past Wednesday night at home, defeating Pee Dee Junior Legion 6-5 in eight innings, and it took some key contributions from everyone, even in positions they had not played this season.
“It definitely wasn’t the way we scripted, but you got to hand it to them,” Darlington head coach Joe Kolodziej said. “We kind of slipped up a couple of innings, but we managed to limit the damage for the most part, but when they started to chip away at it, they had that one big inning when we made an untimely error, but we were able to come back on that and play our brand of baseball and get ourselves in hitter counts again. We had kind of gotten away from that a little bit.”
From Ranse Hatchell’s two-out RBI double in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game up at five to force extra innings, to Jacob Adams and Karson Norris throwing their first innings of the season in seventh and eighth inning due to an injury to Jake Blackmon, to Adams’ getting yet another game-winning RBI hit, this game was a collective effort from many faces on Darlington’s roster.
Getting to these key moments, however, was just as exciting for any baseball enthusiast. It started in the bottom of the second inning when Darlington capitalized on every Pee Dee mistake, which was four errors, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and wild pitch, turning it into four runs.
Pee Dee got one of those runs back in the third, but in the fourth, Pee Dee had its biggest chance to really change the game and it came up empty when it failed to score any runs with the bases loaded and no outs.
After three straight singles in the top of the fourth off of starter John Dennis, Kolodziej went to the bullpen and brought in Thomas Standish to a situation where he had no room for error, a situation where if he gives up just one run, everyone tells him how great a job he did.
Instead, with a strong defense behind him, Standish got the first Pee Dee hitter to lineout into double play to third baseman Lex Blackmon on just the second pitch of the at-bat and then got the next hitter to hit into an innocent groundball to second to end the inning.
“It was very nerve-racking going in with no outs, bases juiced, but right when I saw Lex catch that ball I knew that was a double play and then I felt more comfortable with men on first and second and two outs. I saw that ground ball, I knew we did it,” Standish said.
In the sixth inning Standish got into some trouble early and Kolodziej went back to bullpen to bring in Blackmon, who was able to get two outs before a hit and error allowed Pee Dee to score two runs and cut Darlington’s lead to just one run.
In the seventh, things really got interesting and at one point it looked even like Darlington was going to lose a game in which it once had a four-run lead.
It all started when Kolodziej, dealing with depth and injury issues, was forced to bring in players to pitch who do not normally pitch even though they do throw bullpens to be prepared for emergency situations like this.
The first was Adams, who came in when Blackmon went down to an arm injury on the first batter and the second was Norris, who followed Adams and finished the game off on the mound.
Adams faced two batters, one in which he inherited a 3-1 count after Blackmon’s injury the first, before giving way to Norris.
Norris’ start on the mound was met with some unfortunate plays as an error and a wild pitch allowed two runs to score to give Pee Dee its first lead of the game. It could have been worse, but Norris was able to get a strikeout with the bases loaded and two outs to get out of the jam before any more damage happened.
“I was a little nervous at first because I haven’t been pitching a lot this year,” Norris said. “I knew he was going to call on me at some point; I really wasn’t expecting it today. I saw Jake shut it down; I thought at one point, I was going to have to come in. Coming in and getting those outs and being able to save the game, it felt really good.”
He also ran into trouble again in the eighth, having the bases loaded again with two outs, but a weak grounder right back to him ended the top half of the inning, giving Darlington the chance it needed to walk off with the win.
It started with an infield single by Tyler Berry and ended with a two-out, RBI double by Adams to the right centerfield gap on the first pitch.
“Last game it was against Hartsville; it wasn’t the prettiest walk-off, but it got the job done,” Adams said. “They went out there (and) had their visit; I really didn’t know what they were talking about; Dad always told me, ‘You don’t miss the first fastball.’ I was up on the plate, they threw me one outside and I took it that way.”