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Darlington sends Dogs packing with 15-6 tourney win

Posted: May 1, 2012 2:56 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2012 5:00 a.m.

DARLINGTON – When we last left the Darlington vs. Camden baseball series, Jake Ansley threw a no-hitter against DHS in a tidily played 2-1 Bulldog victory in the next-to-last game of the Region 6-AAA season between the two sides played at American Legion Park.
Monday night at Williamson Field … not so much.
With the season on the line for both teams in a District 6 AAA elimination pairing, the host Falcons belted out 13 hits against a quartet of Camden pitchers to advance into Tuesday’s third round elimination contest at Dreher with a 15-6 pounding of the visiting Bulldogs.
Not only did the two teams combine to score 18 more runs than they did in their previous meeting, but this game of more than three hours more than doubled the time it took to play the contest in Camden 13 days earlier.
The Dogs closed their season with a 13-12 record on a night in which Denny Beckley’s charges were unable to take full advantage of being issued nine walks and five hit batsmen, including Will Hough’s being plunked with a pitch in each of his final three at-bats.
It was enough to leave Beckley searching for answers as his team headed for the bus to return home.
“We had base runners on all night. It was one of the strangest baseball games that I’ve ever seen,” Beckley said. “The two double plays they turned really hurt us and we struck out too many times with runners in scoring position.
“We battled and battled, but we just couldn’t get any big hits to get any momentum. Hat’s off to their pitchers for making good pitches when they needed to.”
The Falcons (18-6) nearly closed this game in five innings, using a six-run fourth to build a 13-2 lead against a Camden offense which managed just four hits on the night off starter Kam Dixon, who worked the first five frames, and Jared Durant, who finished things with two innings of relief.
Camden started in the hole after the Falcons got to freshman starter Sam Powers for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first to grab a 2-0 lead. Kennard McDowell drove in the first run with the first of his two triples on the night and later scored on an error.
The Bulldogs took advantage of Dixon’s wild streak by knotting things with a pair in the top of the second which opened with Cole Irick legging out a single on an infield chopper. Zack Caulder followed with a walk and with one gone, Josh Lund worked his way to a free pass to load the bases. After getting a strikeout, Dixon struggled to find the plate as he issued consecutive walks to Darius Smith and Ross Hough before using his third strikeout of the frame to leave the bases juiced.
The base on balls seemed to be contagious as DHS used three walks and a single to chase Powers from the box in favor of Will Hough with one out in the top of the second. The final two runs of a four-run frame were supplied by a McDowell single to center as the hosts took the lead for keeps at 6-2.
Powers has been a rock for the Dogs on the mound in being able to pound the strike zone. But with the plate umpire having a small zone, on this night the CHS right-hander battled with his command.
“I was really surprised because, I don’t think Sam’s done that all year long,” Beckley said. “He’s a battler. This was one of those tough-luck situations. The umpire’s strike zone was really tight both ways. Sam lost his arm slot and threw a lot of balls in the dirt. (CHS catcher Josh) Lund was put in a tough situation, too. He battled his tail off behind the plate tonight.”
A one-run Falcon third hiked the lead to 7-2. The roof would cave in an inning later as the hosts scored six runs on four hits, two walks, one hit batter and a CHS error to cushion their lead to 13-2. Freshman Ross Hough would come on in relief of Cory Brazell to put out the fire by fanning the only batter he faced that inning.
Hough, a freshman lefty, had the most success of any Bulldog pitcher on the night. In 2.1 innings of work, he struck out six batters, allowed two hits and two unearned runs which came in the bottom of the sixth.
The Dogs avoided being closed out early by extending the game with a two-run fifth.
A leadoff walk to Ansley was followed by Will Hough’s being hit by a Dixon offering. Dixon then hit Irick to load the bags. Kevin Collins plated both runs in the inning with a two-run single to center to trim the deficit to 13-4.
Camden continued to chip away with a pair in the sixth off Durant who walked Smith, the first batter he faced. A Ross Hough singled followed. Smith would score on a passed ball while Hough made it a 13-6 game, coming across on a balk.
The Falcons closed things, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a Camden throwing error.
While getting 14 runners on base without the benefit of a hit, Beckley said his team’s offense was not helped by Dixon and Durant’s being all over the place with their pitches.
“They had something to do with it,” Beckley said of his team’s inability to get settled at the plate. “This was just one of those long, weird games.”
On the positive side, Beckley said he was proud of his team for not giving up when trailing by 11 runs midway in the game.
“I’m always proud of our guys,” he said. “Look at Will Morgan’s (pinch-hit) at-bat in the seventh inning. We had two outs and he had two strikes on him and he comes through with a base hit. We’re a scrappy team. We have a lot of things that we need to get better at doing, but I really like this group’s fight and their heart.
“Our young guys can really learn a lot from this season in terms of that fight and the will to keep battling.”

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