Darlington squeezes a win out against Hilton Head
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Darlington’s quest to win the district and advance to the lower-state championship took a significant blow this past Monday, May 2 at home when the Falcons lost 3-1 to the Hilton Head Seahawks.
Tied at one going into the top of the seventh Hilton Head was finally able to capitalize with runners on base, scoring two runs with the bases loaded.
After striking out the first Seahawks, freshman pitcher Anthony Hopkins gave up back to back singles, the first being a bunt and the other going to right field.
With those two runners on, Darlington head coach Dennis Gearhart decided to intentionally walk Hilton Head’s next batter, loading up the bases to give the Falcons a force out at any plate. That is when the Seahawks made a move even after Darlington got what they wanted.
Hilton Head’s next batter hit an in-between ground ball between the pitching mound and third base and it looked like Darlington was going to get the forced out at home and maybe even a double play to end the inning.
Instead, the awkwardly hit ball forced Hopkins to make a tough throw home and catcher Ladson Carter was not standing on the plate when he caught the ball, giving Hilton Head its first lead of the game.
With the bases still loaded and Hilton Head having only one out instead of two after the unfortunate play before, the Seahawks made the most of their opportunity as the next batter smacked a RBI sacrifice fly to right field, extending the lead to 3-1.
After that sacrifice fly by Hilton Head. Darlington was able to get out of the inning so it could try and mount another comeback like it did against Myrtle Beach in the first game of district playoffs.
After the first two Falcons got out, Darlington tried to put together some two-out magic in the bottom half of the seventh as center fielder Jared Boswell, who was hit by a pitch advanced to second on a wild pitch.
That was a close as the Falcons would get to trying to cut into Hilton Head’s two-run lead and tie the game to force extra innings. Shortstop Garrett Revell, who followed Boswell, flew out to center to end the game.
The Falcons got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning. Carter blasted a double off the left-field wall, scoring Revell who started the bottom half of the inning off with reaching on an error by the Seahawks third baseman.
Darlington may have scored two runs in that inning, but as Revell scored, Tobais Dixon, who was pinch running for Carter, was thrown out at third after slipping when trying to get back to base.
“Lost a run in the first inning running with our head down,” Gearhart said on the first inning. “We didn’t come out tonight and play the same game that we have been playing.”
Hilton Head answered the run in the third inning with a RBI single to left field, scoring the leadoff batter of the inning who reached on bunt single.
It was a game a missed opportunities for Darlington, something that had not been plaguing them lately.
“I thought it was the first time in a while where we didn’t capitalize on mistakes or capitalize when we had guys on base,” Gearhart said on what plagued Darlington against the Seahawks. “Lately we have been getting a base hit here and there and scoring those runs and we didn’t do it tonight.”
Tied at one Darlington had a chance to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth with one, but the worse thing possible happen on third baseman Taylor Spangler’s suicide squeeze bunt attempt, as he popped up getting not only himself out, but getting pinch runner Trace Atkinson doubled up at third.
“Had a big spot earlier in the game second and third,” Gearhart said, referring to what might have been the turning point of the game. “Taylor Spangler has been a good bunter for me all year, thought we would take a shot and squeeze one out, running with our head down, popped it up, double play.”
While the loss does not end Darlington’s season, it definitely changes its course as now the Falcons must come through the loser’s bracket, needing to win three straight to advance.
Mobile users, please click link to view more photos: DHS ss. Gilbert and Hilton Head