Beaufort High School's baseball team had not shown much fight at times during the regular season. Its coach, Scott Mullen, admitted as much.
But a breakthrough was reached to open the Class 4-A District 6 playoffs last week and carried into Wednesday, when the Eagles defeated Wando 6-5 in eight innings to win the district title.
Beaufort High advances to the Lower State championship bracket, where the Eagles will open against either Lexington or Wednesday's winner between Ashley Ridge and Lugoff-Elgin.
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"Ever since the playoffs started, the guys have never backed down," Mullen said. "Every game has been a close game, and they keep fighting, fighting, fighting."
Beaufort High came back last week to beat Wando in the opener of the double-elimination format, scoring four runs during the final inning. And the Eagles then held off West Florence to earn the right to host the district final.
Players posted messages like "We believe!" on Twitter and encouraged Eagles fans to show up Wednesday. Many complied, waiting out periodic showers and high winds as Beaufort High dropped the first game, 4-2, and took Game 2 to the wire.
Beaufort High pitcher Mattison Pike, on in relief in Game 2, pitched a scoreless 4 2-3 innings to help carry the Eagles. Matt Thorpe drove in the winning run, a base hit in the top of the eighth to score Carson Gregory.
"I knew he was going to come right at me," Thorpe said of Warriors reliever Jeff Gottesman. "I was just going up there looking first-pitch fastball, something I could get a bat on and hit."
Pike had played with some on Wando's roster, had a plan of how to attack the Warriors' lineup.
He tried to throw strikes on the outside corner, work his offspeed pitches and take advantage of anxious bats.
"I just tried to make it like any other game during the regular season," said Pike, who was making his first appearance in the playoffs. "I just calmed all my nerves after the first inning."
The magic wasn't there at the end of Game 1.
The bottom of the Beaufort High lineup led off the final inning of the first game with consecutive base hits and advanced to second and third. But Wando starter Michael Carpin, who threw a complete game, struck out David Tilton looking to end it.
The Warriors got to Winthrop-bound Carson Gregory, knocking him out in the fifth after nine hits and three runs.
Beaufort High didn't fold, not as the second game inched toward 11 p.m.
"We started playing together towards the end of the year and are really doing something big with it," Thorpe said.
Wando 020 010 1 -- 4 10 0
Beaufort High 101 000 0 -- 2 6 1
WP: Michael Carpin 7 IP, 7 K, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB
LP: Carson Gregory 5 1/3 IP, 1 K, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB
Top hitters: Wando -- Babe Thomas 3 for 3, 2 RBIs, 2 2B, BB; Kep Brown 2 for 4, 2B, RBI. Beaufort High -- Brady Cormier 2 for 3, R.
Beaufort High 211 010 01 -- 6 9 1
Wando 120 200 00 -- 5 12 2
WP: Mattison Pike 4 2/3 IP, O R, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 H, 2 BB
LP: Jeff Gottesman 4 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 HBP
Top hitters: Beaufort High -- Carson Gregory 2 for 3, 2 BB; Alex Silon 2 for 3, 2 BB; Matt Thorpe 2 for 4, 2 RBI. Wando -- Trevor Pedersen 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI.