GREENVILLE — The Fighting Scots season was a roller coaster ride complete with plenty of ups, downs, twists, turns and even a cork-screw or two but on Saturday in Greenville that ride came to an end.
The No. 14 seeded Fighting Scots lost to No. 1 J.H. Rose at Guy Smith Stadium on a walk-off grand slam by Rampants first baseman Tyshawn Barrett in the bottom of the fifth inning. The grand slam sealed the 13-3 win for J.H. Rose and ended the Scots roller-coaster ride.
It wasn’t a one-sided game at the onset, as the Scots came out swinging against J.H. Rose starter Chandler Hallow. Scots senior Donta Green started the game off with a single back up the middle before junior Daly Marcano laid down a bunt to safely reach first. With two runners on and no outs, senior Justin Bowers got the go ahead to swing away.
Bowers hit into a fielder’s choice, which saw pinch runner Tripp Wells tagged out at second for the first out. A fly out to center by senior Justin Ray and a strikeout by Austin Norton ended the inning with two runners left on.
Marcano got the call for the Scots on the mound and despite a line-drive and back-to-back walks go out of the bottom of the first unscathed. The two teams were scoreless until the top of the third inning when the Scots put three runs on the board to take a 3-0 lead with two outs.
A walk to senior McKenzie White started the coaster towards the top of the hill before Green was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Marcano bunted his third strike foul for the first out before Bowers hit into another fielder’s choice that saw White get tagged out at third. With two outs the Scots started down the hill with a double to right from Ray to score Green from second. A single to right by Norton scored to more runs for the Scots as they came around a big turn, hands in the air. A walk to Tyler Faulk put two runners on for Tyler Snipes, but a strikeout by Snipes ended the inning.
J.H. Rose responded with two runs in the bottom of the third on a hits by Greg Hardison and Coleman Sawyer. With a one run lead, 3-2 the Scots continued to make contact in the fourth, but every ball landed in the glove of a J.H. Rose player.
The Rampants crushed the ball in the bottom of the fourth putting up seven runs off a single by Drew Steele, a double by Michael Crumpler and a line-drive hit to center by Anthony Saieed. The throw to home on the hit by Saieed appeared to be an out as Scots catcher Trey Armstrong came up with the baseball in his hand. The home-plate umpire didn’t see it that way and called the runner safe, which extended the inning for the Rampants.
Scots head coach Chad Hill went out to argue the call to no avail. A bunt by Hardison went right to Marcano on the mound and instead of throwing the ball to first for the out, Marcano had a momentary lapse and threw the ball to third. There was no force out so the runner was safe, again extending the inning for J.H. Rose. The turn of bad luck continued for the Scots as a pass ball scored two Rampants runners before Hunter Christopher hit a three-run home run over the right-field wall. The home-run gave J.H. Rose a 9-3 lead and ended the evening for Marcano.
Hill opted to put senior Austin Clark on the mound and he did his job getting his team out of the inning with a ground out to Bowers at third. The decision to take Marcano off the mound wasn’t an easy one for Hill, but gave the junior credit for always being available when his team needed him.
“Daly is our bulldog, if we had to play again (tomorrow) and his pitch count was down he would be in,” Hill said. “A couple of close calls didn’t go our way and it gave them (J.H. Rose) some momentum and we knew they could swing it and if you give extra outs to a quality team like that then you’re playing behind the eight ball. Then you leave some balls up, they capitalize and before you know it you look at the scoreboard and there is a big crocked number.”
Marcano threw three and a half innings allowing nine runs off eight hits with six errors, three walks and a strikeout.
The Scots offense wasn’t able to recover from the Rampants seven-run inning going three up, three down. The questionable calls by the officials continued in the bottom of the fifth. After picking up a strikeout, Clark walked J.H. Rose’s Crumpler to put one runner on. A bunt by Saieed down the third-base line looked like it would be the second out of the inning, but the field umpire called Saieed safe at first. Norton came up with the low throw from Bowers and the ball appeared to have gotten there before Saieed, but the officials didn’t agree.
The call riled up the Scots fans and the umpire threatened to throw out Scots hitting coach Freddie Suggs, who was acting as the first-base coach, if he said another word. The Scots fans didn’t agree with the call and despite Hill questioning it there was no reversal — three batters later the game was over. A fly out to right and a walk to Sawyer ended the game for Clark. Freshman Michael Johnson threw one pitch to Tyshawn Barrett with the bases loaded and the J.H. Rose senior turned on it and hit the walk-off grand slam.
After the game, Hill talked in the outfield with his five seniors — Donta Green, Justin Ray, Justin Bowers, McKenzie White and Austin Clark — and fought back tears as he told them he loved them.
“They worked hard every day for us. We knew that we could count on them and as a coaching staff that’s all you can ask because we had 23 great kids at the end of the year that finished in this dugout and they were led by those five seniors,” said Hill. “As a parent, coach and teacher we couldn’t have asked for five better seniors than the ones we had.”
The Scots finish the season with a 19-8 overall record and 5-5 in Southeastern conference play. The team returns a majority of its pitching staff and Hill hopes that the younger players on his team learned from this season.
“Nineteen wins is the most we’ve had in a while, a lot of kids learned what we’re going to do at Scotland, learned how to play the game the right way and learned how to have a lot of grit and battle til the very end,” he said. “There were a lot of times this year that it took until the very end, whether we won or lost, to get there. Hopefully all the freshmen through juniors remember what they did this year, work hard in the off season to get us above this point next year.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.