In a game that hinted it might last all night, Michael Perez ended it quickly.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, the senior catcher ripped the first pitch thrown by Myrtle Beach reliever Andrew Morris over the head of retreating left fielder Brandon Sinclair for a long RBI single to give Hilton Head Island a 6-5 win over third-seeded Myrtle Beach in the Class 3-A District 6 playoff opener at Hilton Head Island High.
"Right before the pitch, I told Coach Carson, 'He knows I'm going to take a pitch. If I get a fastball and it's right there, can I swing?'<2008>" Perez said. "He said, 'yeah.'<2008>"
Hilton Head Island advances to play at Hartsville on Monday, while Myrtle Beach will host Midland Valley.
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Hilton Head Island scoring a run in the bottom of the 10th was as improbable as the fact the Seahawks -- both teams collectively -- were even still playing at that point. Hilton Head Island twice put together do-or-die two-run extend the game before it made something out of nothing in the 10th to make Myrtle Beach's bus ride home seem even longer than the four hours or so it normally takes.
With two outs in the 10th and the game tied at 5, senior center fielder Andrew Dill tapped a weak dribbler back to Myrtle Beach pitcher Zack Coble and it looked like the 11th inning would become a reality. But the Myrtle Beach first baseman simply dropped Coble's throw and the inning had new life.
Dill stole second before Joe Ludewig and John Good drew back-to-back walks. That set the stage for Perez' heroics.
"That's what you hope for with playoff baseball," Hilton Head Island head coach Blair Carson said. "Close games, both pitchers did really well, both teams battled. It could have swung either way."
Hilton Head Island's first rally was started by the bottom of the order with the Seahawks trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh.
No. 8 hitter Matt Rozelle led off the bottom half of the frame with a single followed by shortstop Carmen Mlodzinski's walk. Tommy Cooper sacrificed the runners up a base before Dill lined a hard single down the left field line to plate two. It was Hilton Head Island's first hard hit ball off Myrtle Beach starter Praise Thorsen since Dill's line-drive single off the shortstop's glove in the bottom of the first.
"I came in knowing this could be our last home game of the season, so I just came out and gave it my all and got good results," Dill said.
Thorsen kept Myrtle Beach in the game with a pair of strikeouts to get out of the inning.
"He did a great job," Carson said of Thorsen. "He threw a lot of strikes. He got ahead of everyone. He kept us off balance. He did a great job. Early on, we were popping a lot of balls up, but later on, we made some adjustments."
Hilton Head Island again escaped defeat in the bottom of the ninth. Myrtle Beach took a two-run lead in the ninth on a Sinclair double, a balk, a Hunter Todd RBI single past a drawn-in infield and an errant throw by Hilton Head Island third baseman Dillon Hefner.
But Hilton Head Island managed to score twice in the bottom half on a wild pitch and a passed ball. The Seahawks had managed to load the bases on a hit by pitch, a four-pitch walk and Caleb Workman's infield single, which was nothing more than a routine grounder to third. He beat the throw when Drayton Arnold took too much time to throw to first when he could have stepped on third for the final out of the game.
Dill pitched the 10th to earn the win for Hilton Head Island. Zack Coble took the loss in relief for Myrtle Beach.
Dill was 3 for 6, all singles, with three RBIs and a stolen base for Hilton Head Island. Perez was 1 for 4 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch and one key RBI.
For Myrtle Beach, Sinclair was 3 for 4 with a standup, two-run triple, a double and a single.