Randy Young stood patiently at third base, waiting on a simple 90-foot trot to home that would have erased a season's worth of troubles.
Key hits with runners in scoring position plagued the Hilton Head Preparatory School baseball team throughout the season. But the Dolphins sought to change their year-long frustrations with one fell swoop in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon against Wilson Hall.
"Wouldn't that have been great?" coach Lew Kent said. "That would have been great."
Hilton Head Prep had runners on the corners with no outs, trailing by a run to a Barons team that was one inning away from reaching next week's SCISAA Class 3-A state championship series. Young doubled to lead off the frame before advancing to third on Cole Gardocki's slicing single to left, all of it coming against Wilson Hall closer J.P. Sears, The Citadel commitment.
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But the theme of the season stuck with the Dolphins for one more excruciating inning, as Gardocki was caught stealing before Braydon Mitchell and J.T. Marbut struck out to end the Dolphins' banner campaign. Wilson Hall walked away with a 2-1 victory while Prep's season ended in the semifinals, the furthest the school has ever gone.
"That was our Achilles' heel this year," Kent said. "We left just a ton of runners on base."
Wilson Hall (22-6) got all the runs it would need in the first inning, and it did so without a single ball leaving the infield. The Barons struck for a pair of runs on four hits to start the game, capped by RBI singles from John Wells Baker and Parker McDuffie, before pitcher William Kinney went to work.
The right-hander silenced Hilton Head Prep (18-6) over his six innings, allowing just an RBI double to pinch-hitter Stephen Frederico in the fifth. Kinney struck out Mitchell in the second with a runner on third, then forced a double play to end the third. Kinney earned the win after giving up one run on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
His efforts were good enough to outduel freshman Tyler Fox, who settled down after his 27-pitch first inning. He gave up seven hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
"Certainly the game was won on the mound for us," Wilson Hall coach Tommy Jones said. "We didn't hit (Fox). That pitcher pitched a good game. ... The first time this season we played him, we hit him around a little bit. He could throw a straight change with a 3-1 count.
"He came right in there and pitched well. I give him all the credit. He certainly deserved a better fate."
Fox's performance did little to offset Prep's troubles at the plate, though, as the Dolphins finished the afternoon 2 for 10 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position while leaving six men on the basepaths.
"We're definitely going to remember this feeling," Young said, while most of his teammates lurched around the Prep dugout. "We don't want this to happen again next year. We want to compete for a state title again."
Wilson Hall bested the Dolphins for the fourth time in a season that saw Prep lose only six times in all. For a moment, though, it looked as if Kent's team would have enough to slip into what would have been a winner-take-all Game 3 today.
"I didn't think we were just going to tie," he recalled. "I think, 'We have a shot to win this right here.' "
"It's all nerves when it comes to the bottom of the seventh," Young added. "You just have to try and control it. Everyone is nervous, we all want to win. We just have to do as best as we can."
A brisk 90-foot jog to home could have changed it all for Prep. Instead, Wilson Hall heads to the championship series that begins Monday in Sumter while the Dolphins search for ways to change their misfortune in the latter innings next season.
"The seventh inning was just close every way you can think of," Jones said. "Any little error, any throwaway, any baserunner error, they lose or we win. They don't come any closer than that."
Wilson Hall 200 000 0 -- 2 7 0
Hilton Head Prep 000 010 0 -- 1 5 1
WP: William Kinney 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
LP: Tyler Fox 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Top hitters: Wilson Hall -- John Wells Baker 1 for 3, RBI; Parker McDuffie 1 for 3, RBI; JP Sears 1 for 3, SB, R; Jay Goodson 1 for 4, SB, R. Hilton Head Prep -- Randy Young 1 for 2, 2B, BB, R; Stephen Frederico 1 for 1, 2B, RBI; Jake Martin 1 for 3, SB; John Sheehan 1 for 2, 2B.