Bill Shaw has seen firsthand the growth and development from the core of his Hilton Head Dixie Boys baseball team over the last several years. And now, the experienced group is starting to reap the benefits of their time together on the diamond.
Hilton Head moved to 2-0 in the Dixie Boys (14 and under) baseball tournament at Burton Wells Recreation Complex in Beaufort on Thursday night, building a 10-0 advantage over Beaufort behind a pair of veteran players before hanging on for a 12-6 victory.
"We're very fortunate on this team," Shaw said. "We've got about seven guys who have literally been together since they were (little). They've traveled together and played together, so we're very fortunate. It's just come together."
Tad Zmarzly, a junior varsity player for Hilton Head Island High School who recently turned 15, provided most of the highlights. The right-hander fired three perfect innings to open the night while going 3 for 5 with a double and four RBIs at the plate. He brought home the first run on a groundout in the first before his two-run single in the third pushed Hilton Head's advantage to seven.
He added another RBI in the seventh to up the lead to six after Beaufort fought back in the middle innings.
"He's a man," Shaw said. " ... He's a leader on the team. Great guy. You're talking about a baseball guy. He studies the game like you wouldn't believe. The kid is just Mr. Baseball. He's at literally every baseball camp in the state of South Carolina. I've got four or five of them like that right now."
Fellow veteran Nick Lucchesi added a four-hit night before coming on to pitch in relief for Hilton Head, which staved off a furious Beaufort rally as the night grew longer. Beaufort plated three runs in both the third and fourth innings to pull within four, only to come up short at the end. Michael Smyth tallied a two-run single to start the rally, and Rome Wallace and Patrick Talbert notched extra-base hits for RBIs an inning later.
"We hit the ball early, we didn't strike out much, but we didn't find holes," Beaufort coach Dean Adkins said. "Later on, we started hitting it harder and ended up finding the holes. Taking away from this, we know we can hit the ball on anything they've got out there. We'll see what happens next time."
Beaufort is idle on Friday while Hilton Head takes on Summerville at 7 p.m. Summerville stayed alive Thursday with a 22-1 thrashing of Hanahan in the loser's bracket.
Should Hilton Head win, it would meet Beaufort again at 6 p.m. Saturday in the championship game, while a Summerville victory would put it in a Sunday night final. In that scenario, Hilton Head and Beaufort would meet Saturday in a semifinal matchup with the winner advancing to the tournament's final day.
Dixie Boys Baseball District Tournament
At Burton Wells Recreation Complex, Beaufort
Game 1: Beaufort 7, Summerville 4
Game 2: Hilton Head 12, Bluffton 2
All games postponed
Game 3: Beaufort 12, Hanahan 2
Game 4: Summerville 8, Bluffton 7, Bluffton eliminated
Game 5: Hilton Head 12, Beaufort 6
Game 6: Summerville 22, Hanahan 1, Hanahan eliminated
Game 7: Hilton Head vs. Summerville, 7 p.m.