"It's going to be a donnybrook."
Hilton Head head coach Bill Shaw knew Friday night what his team was facing in Saturday's game against Beaufort for the championship of the Dixie Boys district tournament at Burton Wells Recreation Center in Beaufort.
In a game that was never in danger being stopped by the 10-run rule, second baseman Nick Lucchesi's line-drive double down the left-field line in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Hilton Head (4-0) a 4-3 win over Beaufort (2-2) and a spot in the Dixie Boys state championship tournament beginning July 20 in Aiken.
"We didn't play real well today. We made some terrible baserunning mistakes, and the guys weren't into it," Shaw said. "But somehow, we pulled it out."
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Carmen Mlodzinski drew a walk. After Brice Adkins replaced Michael Smythe at pitcher for Beaufort, Lucchesi -- the defensive hero for Hilton Head on Friday night, who had already tied the game at 3 in the sixth on an RBI groundout to short -- stepped to the plate.
"We were watching the new pitcher warming up and we discussed it," Shaw said. "We said, 'On the second pitch, we're going hit and run.' "
Lucchesi laced the ball into left and Kyle Lanning's throw never had a chance to get Mlodzinski at the plate.
"It was a very exciting, very well-played game," Beaufort coach Dean Adkins said. "I told the boys going in, 'If you pitch well, if you play good defense, if you make the plays, whatever happens at the end, we're OK with it.' They're a great team. If we had to get beat, that's the way we want to get beat. I didn't want it to be on an error or anything like that, on a bad play. Everybody made plays here and there and they made one at the end that mattered the most."
Beaufort jumped out on top with two runs in the first. Landon Thorpe singled, Adkins doubled and Patrick Talbert singled them both in.
Hilton Head answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Tad Zmarzly singled in Mlodzinski, who reached on an error.
In the fourth, Beaufort got the run back when John Ryan Goneke connected for just his second hit of the tournament. But it was a towering no-doubter home run that cleared the left-center-field fence by 15 feet.
Hilton Head scored another solo run in the bottom of the fourth, but baserunning blunders prevented a big inning.
With the bases loaded, Ian Foggo was tagged out at home trying to score on a passed ball that bounced right back to Beaufort's catcher Talbert. Mlodzinski followed with an RBI single to right to cut the lead to 3-2, but a second run failed to score when David Smith was thrown out at the plate on the relay from Kyle Torrey.
"It's OK to have an off day. But you can't have a day like we had today," Shaw said. "We should have scored four more today. But we had some bad baserunning errors and some kids that are not listening. It was just total disarray today."
Baserunning stung Hilton Head again in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Ned Gilleland was picked off third base, and it wasn't really close. It cost Hilton Head a run as Ian Foggo's ensuing walk would have forced in a run. Instead, with the bases loaded again, Shane Clark popped up behind the plate to end the threat.
"We had a bad baserunning blunder. We had a guy run on a passed ball when he shouldn't have. Didn't listen to me," Shaw said. "And then we had another one picked off when he wasn't listening. That's just lack of concentration."
While Shaw lamented his team's lack of discipline on the basepaths, he said the offense is "absolutely" the key to Hilton Head's postseason chances.
"If we hit the ball, we'll stack up with anybody," Shaw said. "If we don't, we'll struggle like we did today."
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 11, Summerville 0, Summerville eliminated
Game 8: Hilton Head 4, Beaufort 3, 8 innings