Darlington eliminated from playoffs
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
And just like that the season came to an end.
In a hard fought game that saw a little bit of everything, the Darlington Falcons baseball season came to an end this past Wednesday as the team fell 3-2 to the Gilbert Indians in front of home crowd that wanted a win just as much as the players did.
“We fought,” Darlington head coach Dennis Gearhart said, simply describing what was such a tough game to be on the losing end of.
Down 3-1 going into the bottom of seventh inning, the Falcons had three outs left to try to at least tie in the effort to keep the game going, unfortunately that effort came up just short as Darlington was able to score one run, but not two.
“That’s a good baseball team,” Gearhart said of Gilbert. “I think they have a good shot of going down to Hilton Head and picking up two. They played a pretty solid game from top to bottom. The pitcher filled up the strike zone, they stole some bases and put themselves in scoring position and capitalized.”
Justin Mack, Darlington’s designated hitter, led the inning off with a ground out to short, but it was not your normal groundout. Gilbert’s shortstop’s throw sailed left, blatantly pulling the first baseman off the bag.
Both umpires convened after the play as Gearhart went out to dispute the call, but the call was upheld to the dissatisfaction of everyone present, expect for Gilbert fans.
That call, that play, while not the whole reason why Darlington lost, was a very integral part in the result.
Following the controversial call, left fielder Eric McElveen singled to center field, his third hit of the game which would have given Darlington two runners on instead of just one plus it would be with no outs instead of the one, but that still is not the part where it really made a difference.
After McElveen’s single, starting pitcher, Bryant Huggins hit a slow grounder that advanced McElveen to second. If Mack would have still been on base like he should have been there would have been runners on second and third with one out, instead of just second with two outs. Do you see where this is going?
Following Huggins groundout, right fielder Jakes Jones hit a RBI single to right field scoring McElveen, cutting Gilbert’s lead to 3-2, making that controversial call as glaring as ever because if Mack had been correctly called safe the game would have been tied at three.
From there, Darlington was not able to score any more runs and the game ended with Jared Boswell striking out swinging.
But, like I said, that was not the whole reason Darlington lost the game.
“A call here, a call there could have completely flipped the game, but you can’t blame it on that,” Gearhart said. “We just didn’t execute and take care of our business when we needed to.”
First thing first Gilbert set itself up well in the first three innings and capitalized every time. The Indians stole six bases, scored on a pass ball, and hit with runners in scoring position. Gilbert scored one run each in the game’s first three innings.
Darlington answered one of those runs; however, in the second inning McElveen got his first hit of the game, a RBI double to right field.
That, however, was about as much as the Falcons could muster up offensively until the seventh inning as Gilbert was outstanding on the mound.
The Indians’ starting pitcher had a three-pitch inning in the bottom of the third and a four pitch inning in the bottom of the fourth. A grand total of seven pitches to get six outs.
But still Darlington had its chances, stranding a runner on third with one out in the second inning, a runner on second with one out in the fifth inning and a runner on third with two outs in the sixth, an inning where shortstop Garrett Revell led the inning off with a double.
“We didn’t take advantage of those opportunities when we had them,” Gearhart said on the stranded runners in scoring position.
If Darlington could have just gotten a hit at any point in time during those situations the game would have been completely different.
Instead, the Falcons came up empty in those situations and are left wondering what could have been.
That is not to take away from what Darlington accomplished this season. The Falcons finished second in the region for the first time in three years, hosted three playoff games, including a win against Myrtle Beach in the opening playoff game.
“I think as program we took a step,” Gearhart said, recapping the season. “It’s the first time we finished second place in quite a few years, three or four years probably, hosted a first round playoff game and got a win and had a shot to win Monday at home and had another opportunity to play at home and win it. As the year went on we played better and better baseball and I tribute that to the seniors for stepping up and taking charge. It’s going to be tough group to lose. We had a lot of talent and a lot of leadership with that group.”
Not bad for a first year head coach and team that most did not think would make it this far. It is going to be exciting to see what this team can do next year.
Mobile users, please click link to view more photos: DHS ss. Gilbert and Hilton Head