Four run sixth propels Darlington in comeback over Myrtle Beach
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Darlington – Better late than never.
At least that was true for the Darlington Falcons this past Friday night at home in the opening game of the District V, 3A lower state playoffs.
Behind an improbable comeback that started in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Falcons needed an extra inning, but got their playoff run off to a good start, defeating the Myrtle Beach Seahawks 5-4 in the eight innings.
“We will take then how we can get them,” Darlington head coach Dennis Gearhart said after the game. “We showed a lot of fight again tonight. Went down early, the balls didn’t bounce our way early in the game, but later on in the game we were effective.”
Down 4-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Darlington had not been unable to find any success at the plate, as Myrtle Beach’s Cameron Bodge had held the Falcons hitless through five innings.
It was in the bottom half of the sixth, however, Darlington, led by a strong core group of seniors, found life at the plate and started what most Falcon fans would say was the best comeback of the year, especially dealing with the situation.
“We didn’t have a hit till the fifth inning, but we could have dropped our heads and folded 4-0, but we didn’t,” Gearhart said on his team’s character. “We fought back and I just give credit to the guys, they got a lot of heart, they’re going to fight and I’ll fight.”
Senior Jared Boswell led the inning off with a walk, only the third of the game and only the fourth base runner for the entire game. That walk, though must have sparked life into the Falcons offense because they turned it into four runs.
With Boswell on, senior Garrett Revell hit a bouncer between the third baseman and shortstop for the Falcons first hit of the game giving Darlington two on and its first sign of life.
Revell’s hit must have been contagious because senior Taylor Spangler, the next batter, hit his ball in an almost identical spot, but what happened after the hit was what was more important.
As Spangler’s ball rolled slowly into left field, Myrtle Beach’s left fielder misplayed the ball, letting it go under his glove allowing both Boswell and Revell to score and Spangler get to third.
After reaching third on the Myrtle Beach error, Spangler scored as Darlington’s next hitter, senior Brycen Brown singled to left field, the third consecutive hit of the inning for the Falcons, cutting Myrtle Beach’s once 4-0 lead to 4-3.
But the seniors were not done yet. With one out and Tabias Dixon, who was pinch running for Brown on second after stealing, senior Justin Mack, who has battled a hamstring injury this season hit a RBI single to right field to tie the game up at four.
Freshman Anthony Hopkins came in for the Falcons in the sixth inning and was lights out, holding the Seahawks scoreless for the rest of the game, retiring nine out of the 11 hitters he faced.
“You can’t change the situation, you can be up by 14 or down by four, you just have to play the game like you know how to play it and go back to basics and throw strikes,” Hopkins said, who entered the game with Darlington down 4-0.
Still tied at 4 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning Darlington was looking to make a move to end the game and it did it without the ball ever even leaving the infield.
Spangler led the inning off with an infield single and Brown laid down a perfect bunt for a single that Myrtle Beach was trying to let roll foul, but never did and that is where it really got interesting.
With senior Ladson Carter coming up to bat, Gearhart decided to have Drake Adams pinch hit for him, but Adams really was not there to hit. Instead he laid down a perfect bunt for a single that loaded the bases with no outs and Mack coming up to bat.
“I just knew I had to get the job done,” Adams said on the timely bunt to load the bases. “I knew it would be a big key to us winning the game so I just focused on getting the bunt down.”
Mack, who had tied the game at four with a single back in the sixth, took little time to slap the game-winning RBI single into left field.
“When I went to the plate, I went back to my sophomore year, I went back to my old days, putting the ball in play, making contact with the baseball and I got them in,” Mack said on his last two at bats, the game-tying and game-winning hits.
As Spangler crossed home plate to end the game, euphoria erupted throughout the stadium as teammates came out to celebrate with Mack for the hit.
This was something that did not seem destined to happen. After a three run fifth inning by Myrtle Beach due to a miss call by the umpires Darlington was down 4-0 and fans began to hit the exits. The energy was gone and hope seemed to be lost.
Darlington can now look forward to keeping up its winning ways and prove, like Gearhart said at the beginning of the season, they are a team that can play with anybody.
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