Nerves seemed to get the best of Brett Westerfield's Beaufort East team Thursday night, when his club was nearly shut out by Hilton Head Coastal in the winner's bracket of the Dixie Youth Baseball Hilton Head Minors Super District Tournament.
"They played very tight because they knew they were playing a really good team," Westerfield said of his team's 6-1 setback. "They know they can play with them, but in order to play with them they need to play flawless. They put a lot of pressure on themselves and they unraveled."
No such pressure seemed evident in Friday's elimination game. Beaufort East pounded out six runs in the first inning and 12 over the first three frames as Westerfield's team stayed alive with a 12-6 victory over Hilton Head Atlantic.
Beaufort East returns to Crossings Park at 6 p.m. Saturday for a rematch with Hilton Head Coastal in the championship game of the tournament for 9- and 10-year-olds. Coastal, which is 4-0 in the tournament, punched a ticket to the final with a 10-0 triumph in four innings over Hampton/Varnville in Friday's nightcap.
"It comes down to hitting, their attitudes," Westerfield said. "They played more loose than they played (Thursday) night."
Hilton Head Atlantic took a brief 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to Tommy Stauffer's two-run double, but a six-run outburst in the bottom half of the frame doomed any chances of an all-Hilton Head Island final. A dropped fly ball and a bases-loaded walk by Rhogue Wallace started the rally before Sean Moran gave Beaufort East the lead for good with a two-run double to right-center field. Daniel McClan then added a two-run single to end the inning.
Jeromia Simmons had a two-RBI base hit an inning later, and Hayden Jennings continued the onslaught with a run-scoring double to left to give his team a 9-3 advantage.
The offensive barrage helped Westerfield in more ways than one, as Beaufort East managed to save ace pitcher Wes Graves for Saturday's final.
Westerfield may need him to get the best of Hilton Head Coastal, which continued its dominance in this week's tournament. Coach Dobbie Green's team has outscored its last three opponents 19-1 since a thrilling 11-10 win over Hilton Head Atlantic in Monday's tournament opener.
"It is very exciting to see the guys (throwing well)," Green said. "The pitching is a combination of good defense, too. I'm just so proud of them."
Hilton Head Coastal jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks in part to a two-run single from Will Grey. Mac Watson pushed the lead to four in the second with a two-out single through the right side.
The early cushion allowed Green to rest his pitching staff as well, as both teams enter the final with ample hurlers available.
"Beaufort East is strong," Green said. "They were probably the favorites coming into this tournament, not to take anything away from those Hilton Head kids. They're big, strong kids."
Dixie Youth Baseball Hilton Head Minors Super District Tournament
At Crossings Park, Hilton Head Island
Game 1: Beaufort East 19, Hampton/Varnville 6
Game 2: Beaufort American 9, Walterboro 5
Game 3: Bluffton Nationals 14, Bluffton American 2, 4 innings
Game 4: Hilton Head Coastal 11, Hilton Head Atlantic 10
Game 5: Hampton/Varnville 16, Walterboro 15, Walterboro is eliminated
Game 6: Hilton Head Atlantic 14, Bluffton American 4, Bluffton American eliminated
Game 7: Beaufort East 4, Beaufort American 1
Game 8: Hilton Head Coastal 3, Bluffton Nationals 0
All games postponed
Game 9: Hampton/Varnville 8, Bluffton Nationals 1, Bluffton Nationals eliminated
Game 10: Hilton Head Atlantic 7, Beaufort American 2, Beaufort American eliminated
Game 11: Hilton Head Coastal 6, Beaufort East 1
Game 12: Beaufort East 12, Hilton Head Atlantic 6, Hilton Head Atlantic eliminated
Game 13: Hilton Head Coastal 10, Hampton/Varnville 0, 4 innings, Hampton/Varnville eliminated
Game 14: Beaufort East vs. Hilton Head Coastal, 6 p.m. (Field 3)