The rain steadily doused Hilton Head High's baseball field Friday afternoon, but it hardly interrupted a stream of Seahawks playing catch in the outfield.
They were simply glad to still be here, even if it meant they had to fight through the soggy conditions for a couple of hours. Few thought their season would survive an elimination double-header Wednesday at Cane Bay, but the Seahawks swept the Cobras in dramatic fashion to win the Class 3-A district tournament.
Now, senior Charlie Wilkins said, it's time to get greedy.
Hilton Head High will travel to St. James at 4 p.m. today for the opening round of the Class 3-A Lower State tournament, its first appearance in the tournament since the Seahawks played for a state title in 2007.
"We've got a lot of confidence, knowing we're one of the last eight teams left in the state," said Wilkins, a four-year starter. "We think we have a real chance to do something right here."
Even if the numbers may suggest otherwise. The Lower State tournament pits four teams in a double-elimination bracket. A.C. Flora plays at Darlington in today's other matchup. The Seahawks are the only unranked team among the four, while the other three teams are in the top six in the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association poll.
Numbers, rankings and statistics haven't meant much to the Seahawks over the past week. They came back from a six-run deficit Wednesday against Cane Bay starter Zach Wimmer, who had defeated them three times this season. They also twice defeated second-ranked Hartsville, once in an elimination game.
"We're the Cinderella that wasn't supposed to be at the party," Seahawks coach Chris Wells said. "... We've been trying to tell them for a couple weeks now, if you just give it your all, you're going to have a much better chance. We're going in with the same attitude, and we'll see if we can pull off another upset."
The Seahawks (20-8) expect to face Preston Lane, the No. 3 starter on a deep Sharks pitching staff that has compiled a minuscule 2.31 team ERA this season. St. James (25-5) used its top two starters in a doubleheader sweep at Brookland-Cayce on Wednesday to win the district tournament and advance to today's matchup. Lane is 4-0 this season.
Hilton Head High will counter with left-handed senior Sean Bartlett, who has emerged as the team's No. 2 option. Bartlett, an offspeed pitcher, is 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA this year.
Bartlett's assignment won't be an easy one. St. James is hitting .342 as a team, and its lineup hits with power. The Sharks have hit a staggering 33 home runs in 30 games, led by Gunnar Heidt, who has 12 long balls this year. Six regulars are hitting .325 or better, and three are hitting .420 or higher.
"We're expecting Sean Bartlett to show up, throw well and give us a fighting chance," Wells said. "It's all about throwing first-pitch strikes with him. When he gets ahead (in the count) and has control of his curveball, he's a very difficult matchup for teams."
CLASS 3-A LOWER STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
HHH: Sean Bartlett (7-3, 2.90 ERA)
St. James: Preston Lane (4-0, 2.62 ERA)
Category: HHH; St. James
Avg.: Kevin Hickey (.404); Gunnar Heidt (.466)
HR: Michael Haven (3); Heidt (12)
RBI: Hickey (31); Heidt (37)
ERA: Cameron Stoltz (2.02); Gunnar Kines (1.54)
W/L: Sean Bartlett (7-3); Kines (8-0)