High School Sports

Baseball Coach of the Year: Chris Wells

The 2011 season is one Chris Wells will remember rather fondly. He recalls the wins -- and even a few of the losses -- but there was something about the Hilton Head High baseball team that stood out beyond its record.

Competitive spirit. It can be key to any team's success, but perhaps especially so in a sport that tends to lead to comebacks and regularly places teams in adverse situations.

It was the driving force behind the Seahawks' season -- a year in which they didn't win the region title for the first time since 2006 yet still managed to reach the Class 3-A Lower State championship tournament.

"It didn't matter if we were playing checkers on the back of the bus or getting ready to go play Bluffton," Wells said. "They wanted to win at whatever they did."

One night provided a microcosm of Hilton Head High's never-say-die attitude this season.

The Seahawks swept a doubleheader at Cane Bay on May 4 to advance to the Lower State championship tournament for the first time since playing for a state title in 2007. The sweep was not only dramatic but also unexpected.

The Seahawks were winless in three previous meetings with Cane Bay, which dethroned the Seahawks as four-time defending region champions. All three losses came against Cane Bay ace Zach Wimmer, whom the Seahawks trailed by six runs in the second game of the doubleheader before scoring six in the bottom of the sixth and another in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the district title.

The emotional night, and in turn an unpredictable season, helped make Wells this year's Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Baseball Coach of the Year.

"That was a fun night; we saw a lot of memories made and a lot of excitement," Wells said. "That was definitely the highlight of our season. ... It was quite a ride, quite a thrill. These kids will remember that for a long time."

They took an unconventional route to get there.

The Seahawks finished third in Region 8-AAA this spring with a 6-4 league mark after dominating the region in the four years since they dropped down to Class 3-A. Midway through the region schedule, the Seahawks were in a battle to even make the playoffs.

But they peaked at the right time. The Seahawks got hot heading into the playoffs and notched a pair of wins against Cane Bay and two more against Hartsville (No. 2 in the state) to win the district tournament -- a streak that included nine wins in 11 games.

The Seahawks finished the season 20-10.

"The last half of the season we were definitely playing our best ball of the year," Wells said. "We went on quite a run. We improved as the season progressed, and as a coach, that's all you can ask for."

Follow reporter Sam McDowell at twitter.com/MatchPointBft.