High School Sports

St. James holds off HHH in Lower State opener

MURRELLS INLET -- Not only are the St. James Sharks trying to make some history in their baseball program, they also seem determined to turn some heads in the drama department.

After winning four straight elimination games to take the District VII title and advance to Saturday's Class 3-A Lower State tournament opener, the Sharks showed a flair for the dramatic again en route to a 7-5 victory over visiting Hilton Head High.

Fresh off a doubleheader sweep of Brookland-Cayce that gave St. James a clean slate in the double-elimination tournament, the Sharks put themselves back in an early hole by allowing the Seahawks to score three runs in the first inning.

But the battle-tested Sharks (26-5) showed no panic, tying the score one inning later and taking the lead for good in the fifth when senior outfielder Tanner English led off with a walk and used his speed to work his way around the bases for the go-ahead run.

"We've been in close situations like this the last few years, but the difference is this year we're winning them," St. James coach Robbie Centracchio said. "I guess that's the difference in having the seniors we have this year."

After junior pitcher Preston Brown (5-0) helped the Sharks into the lead, senior Robert Troiano took the mound in the sixth to preserve the edge. He got some needed insurance on Marshall McClary's two-run single and Anthony Cossentino's RBI single in the sixth for a 7-3 advantage.

Either unwilling or unable to avoid the drama, the Sharks let the Seahawks put a scare into them before closing it out. Troiano was one out away from shutting it down when a fielding error helped load the bases.

"I wasn't nervous, but I wanted to finish it," said Troiano, who led the Sharks at the plate by going 3 for 3. "They made it closer than it should have been, but we didn't panic. We just keep fighting until the last out."

After giving up a two-run single that brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate, left-handed ace Gunnar Kines took over on the mound and shut the Seahawks down with just two pitches. A harmless pop fly sent the Sharks into a frenzy as they celebrated their fifth straight victory.

Lefty Sean Bartlett took the loss for the Seahawks, giving up five earned runs. Storm Grisham led the offense with two hits and three RBIs. Kevin Hickey added two hits, and Cameron Stoltz had a two-run base hit in the loss.

Hilton Head High (20-9) falls into the losers bracket and will host a game at 6:30 p.m. Monday against Darlington. St. James will travel to face A.C. Flora on Monday.

"I'm proud of the way our guys have played down the stretch," Centracchio said. "They've shown some toughness and the ability to battle back when things get tough. We just want to keep playing that way and see what happens."

Hilton Head High 300 000 2 -- 5 8 2

St. James 120 013 x -- 7 10 3

WP -- Preston Brown

LP -- Sean Bartlett (7-4)

Sv -- Gunnar Kines

Top hitters -- HHH: Michael Haven 2-4, Kevin Hickey 2-3, Storm Grisham 2 hits 3 RBIs; SJ: Robert Troiano 3-3, Hugh Benton 2-3 RBI, Marshall McClary 2-3 3 RBIs.

Records -- St. James 26-5, HHH 20-9.

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