Hawks end Bishops' 14-game winning streak
There were many observers around the state who thought Bishop England High School might have the best baseball team in South Carolina as the Bishops prepared for two games against Region 7-AAA foe and natural rival Hanahan.
After all, the Bishops were undefeated this spring and were winners of two prestigious tournaments. Not only that, the Class AAA Bishops owned victories against some of the top Class AAAA and AAAAA teams in the state.
But for a good majority of last week, the Bishops didn’t even look like the best team in the region. They lost to the Hawks at home and then rallied in extra innings to remain in the title chase.
“It is always good to bounce back from a loss,” Bishop England coach Mike Darnell said. “It would have been nice to have that loss be to a non-region opponent. But that is not the way it worked out.”
The Hawks traveled to Father Kelly Field on April 10 and posted a 3-0 victory to end the Bishops’ 14-game winning streak.
Three days later, the Hawks jumped to a 1-0 lead against the visiting Bishops. But the Bishops rallied to tie it at 1-1 and forced extra innings.
The Bishops remained in the hunt for the region crown, scoring two runs in the top of the eighth, mastering small ball and taking advantage of two Hawk tough-luck fielding plays to claim the victory and set up a one-game playoff.
If last year’s one-game playoff against the two schools is any indication of what is to come, pack the Tums.
Last April, Bishop England’s Geoffrey Gilbert delivered a bunt in the bottom of seventh inning to score Leo Albano to give the Bishops the region title with a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Hawks. They used that as a springboard to win the state title, their first since 2011.
On Friday the 13th, it was Gilbert and Albano who once again had key roles. The left-handed Gilbert, who has committed to play for the Clemson Tigers, was masterful, keeping the Hawks off guard for seven innings, reaching double digits in strikeouts to gain the win. Albano came in to pitch the eighth and earned the save.
The region championship might be decided by survival as both teams’ pitching staffs will be taxed as the regular season winds down. The Bishops’ grueling schedule included games every day this week except Wednesday. They were scheduled to play Manning twice with single games against James Island, Ashley Ridge and Benedictine Military.
The game against Benedictine Military might be cancelled because Bishop England and Hanahan officials are working toward making Saturday D-Day. The Bishops and Hawks could be playing a winner-take-all in the afternoon.
After that, the playoffs begin. Darnell knows his squad must play with passion and precision.
“We have not been hitting the ball very well lately,” Darnell said. “We have been mixing up our lineup to try and get the best nine hitters we can get. It has been a constant mixing and matching for most of the year, but really even more since we have not been scoring as many runs as we did earlier in the year.”