The memories of last season's sweep at the hands of Southeastern still creep into the mind of USC Beaufort pitcher Michael Heesch. The left-hander who took the loss a year ago when the Fire finished off a three-game pasting of the Sand Sharks with a 6-2 victory.
So when he took the mound against them Friday afternoon, he made sure to return the favor.
Heesch pitched a seven-inning complete game while the Sand Sharks notched 22 hits en route to a 15-4 win in the series opener at the Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
"I think everybody had a sense of purpose coming in here," said Heesch, who finished with eight strikeouts. "We were saying to ourselves, 'We all know what happened last year, let's not let it happen again.' We definitely did that today and turned the tables around on them."
It helped USCB avenge a frustrating 2011 campaign against the Lakeland, Fla. school, which boasted a 16-6 victory among its three wins over the Sand Sharks.
"We sat down and looked at what happened last year. We looked at the blowups that we had in several innings," catcher Dylan Nasiatka said. "It added some fuel to our fire today and to this weekend. We don't just want to win games this weekend, we want to win every inning. We want to win every pitch."
Heesch carried a 4-0 lead into the middle innings -- thanks in part to a pair of RBIs from Erik Armstrong -- before the Fire rallied with a four-run fourth to tie it up. Shane Casey started things with a two-run homer on a 1-2 fastball before Southeastern added a pair of runs on a groundout and a throwing error by Nasiatka.
"A lot of it was the wind blowing balls back (over the plate)," Nasiatka said. "We were trying to throw to certain spots and he was trying to get it there. We're going to work on it."
The stalemate didn't last for long, though. The Sand Sharks (12-2, 1-0 Sun Conference) backed Heesch with a four-run rally of their own in the bottom half of the frame, which started with a leadoff double to left from Weldon Smith and ended on a run-scoring double to right by R.J. Neal.
USCB wasn't done, going on to add seven more runs over the final two innings to force a mercy rule on the Fire (8-7, 4-3). Every player in the lineup finished with at least one hit while eight had at least two.
It gave USCB consecutive 15-run outings and marked the fifth time in the last seven games that the Sand Sharks have plated at least nine runs.
"We're just really clicking and feeding off each other," Nasiatka said. "We have some guys swinging the bat."
More importantly, it gave the Sand Sharks a victory in the Sun Conference opener. That it came against Southeastern made it that much sweeter.
The Sand Sharks now will look to claim the series victory today, when the two teams square off at noon and 2 p.m.
"Hopefully it carries into (Saturday) and we can return the favor that they gave us last year," Heesch said.
Southeastern 000 400 0 -- 4 6 1
USCB 310 425 X -- 15 22 2
WP: Michael Heesch (3-0) 7 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.
LP: Justin Mauldin (3-1) 4 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
Top hitters: Southeastern -- Shane Casey 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBIs; Bryan Sparrow 1 for 3, RBI. USCB -- Dylan Nasiatka 3 for 4, 3B, 4 RBIs; Erik Armstrong 3 for 3, 3 RBIs; Conald Mansfield 3 for 5, 3 RBIs; R.J. Neal 3 for 4, 2 RBIs