Any of the baseball contenders in Region VI-4A know by now that it’s just a matter of time.
Facing top-flight pitchers each game, all it takes is a couple of well-timed hits or a bit of luck to turn a game on its head. The latest example came Friday night at Myrtle Beach.
The Seahawks lost 4-1 to region co-frontrunner Hartsville despite a super-hot start from starting pitcher Austin Gordon. Eventually, the Red Foxes worked enough counts, got a break that led to their first run and then kept it going during their third trip through the lineup to make it stick.
“It’s the nature of the game. It’s the beauty of the game,” Myrtle Beach coach Tim Christy said. “Against a good team — and they’re a good baseball team — you can’t make mistakes. We made mistakes, and it hurt us.
“It’s the time of year when you have to grind and grind and grind. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Gordon, a Clemson commitment, mowed through the first nine batters he faced, piling up seven strikeouts to go along with a harmless walk and a fly out. He even managed to keep the Seahawks ahead 1-0 after a couple of two-out Hartsville hits in the top half of the third.
In the fourth and fifth, however, Hartsville’s patience paid off.
The Red Foxes pushed a run across on Garret Parker’s RBI single — one that followed a walk, a stolen base and a passed ball — and then scored two more the next frame on a walk, a single, a wild pitch, a passed ball and an RBI groundout.
Given the way Hartsville’s Owen Taylor was starting to heat up, that was plenty.
Between the end of the second inning and the third batter of the sixth, Taylor retired 12 straight Seahawks. They did bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh; however, a line drive to left was caught and a runner was doubled up to end the game.
It was more proof that close isn’t good enough.
“This region is absolutely loaded with pitching. It’s loaded,” Hartsville coach Tony Gainey said after his team won to keep pace with West Florence at 5-1 each. “They’ve got two guys who can throw it. You’re not going to come out here and 10-run people. (The region is) working its way out.”
Hartsville’s two-game sweep of Myrtle Beach this week meant that Christy’s team is officially out of second chances. The Seahawks (2-4 in region) will have to sweep Wilson and South Florence the next two weeks in order to have any hopes of moving back into the third-place spot in the division with a third consecutive sweep — against rival North Myrtle Beach — in the final week of the regular season.
Mathematically, it’s not likely for a team that lost four of its first six playoff-qualifying games to do that.
But, it’s not impossible.
“I said ‘You guys are not eliminated from the playoffs with this loss, but the importance of the next six games is magnified,’” Christy said of his post-game message. “We have to come in locked in and have great practices, win the games we’re supposed to win and play well. We’ll just see what happens.”