Mike McCombs

McCombs: Hilton Head High baseball team sticking together after losing its coach

As if it wasn't already hard enough being a teenager and in high school, the 18 boys on the Hilton Head Island High baseball team must feel like they're part of some cruel joke.

The suspension and subsequent resignation of head baseball coach Chris Wells in the middle of a promising season -- the Seahawks are 9-1 after Friday's 4-1 win over Knoxville (Tenn.) West -- is handing these boys a lesson. The kind of lesson you only see outside the classroom.

Sometimes things happen to you that you have no control over.

Wells' departure left the Seahawks without their familiar leader. And with a S.C. High School League ruling still to come, there is the possibility that the promising season the Seahawks have worked long and hard for -- especially the team's eight seniors -- might simply vanish.

"It's tough, but the boys, they're real resilient," said Blair Carson, the Hilton Head Island High assistant charged with running the team for the rest of the season. "They came out kind of loose today. I was kind of worried a little bit at first, just to see how they would react. But I'm proud of them tonight. They did a good job."

Carson said the biggest challenge is to keep the team emotionally focused on the end result. His message to the Seahawks has been simple.

"I told them, basically, we can just control what we can control," he said. "I think they understand that. We've got a good group of eight seniors. This year, whatever's going to happen is what you make happen. I think they understand that. If nothing else, you play for one another and have a good time while you're out here."

To these boys, rightly or wrongly, Wells' resignation is a big blow.

"Some people were close to him and some people were like, well, he's our coach, but ...," senior infielder Aaron Facenda said. "But me personally, I really do miss him. The team, we're handling it pretty good. But it's kind of awkward being on the field without him."

Facenda said Wells got him on the team and helped him turn things around when he was struggling in school. And just like that he's gone.

"We don't really know anything, really," Facenda said. "We just know that he's gone and there's nothing we can do about it."

The silver lining is that his departure may save the Seahawks' season.

"What we're hoping for is, by Coach Wells resigning, that we would find leniency," Carson said. "Basically the only thing else would be to punish the guys, who had no control over what happened, and we're hoping that's not the case. Particularly Ryan Cherry."

Cherry, the player whose eligibility is in question, through no fault of his own, doesn't get to focus on the end result. Because he's forced to sit until a High School League ruling on Hilton Head High's case, which could come Tuesday, at the earliest.

"That's who I feel the most sorry for because it's one of those things where he hasn't done anything wrong," Carson said. "There's nothing he can do about it. I'm just trying to keep him at it and keep him on a little workout routine. And we're just hoping for the best. That's all we can do."

Sometimes things happen to you that you have no control over. That's a fact the Seahawks have become painfully aware of this week.

But the real lesson is that these Seahawks can't let that define them.

Carson's message reflects that. Make something good happen. And if nothing else, play for your teammates.

"We've got to be a team. Don't worry about it. We've got a good team. Coach Carson, he's a good coach. Coach (Matt) Seelman, same thing," Facenda said. "We've got to play as a team. Stick together."

Sounds like this lesson is already sinking in.