The big race is not the only significant sporting event going on in Darlington on Saturday. A.C. Flora will battle the traffic on I-20 to get to Darlington High for a 5:30 p.m. game in the first round of the Class 3A Lower State baseball tournament.
The Falcons (17-10) qualified for the Elite Eight phase of the 3A state playoffs for the seventh time in 11 tries since the classification adopted the current postseason format in 2001 by eliminating Chapin in the District final on Wednesday.
Chapin forced a second game by winning 9-3 in the opener behind the pitching of senior Taylor Alvarez. Flora had plenty of scoring chances vs. the Eagles ace, but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-7 clutch showing when the game was still a tight affair in the first three innings.
“We didn’t hit, but (Alvarez) had a lot to do with that," said ACF coach Andy Hallett. “The kid pitched a great game and took it to a second game.”
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It happened for the second year in a row, in fact. Last year Chapin was at home and advanced to the Elite Eight by winning the decisive second game after Flora won the opener. This year the roles reversed.
The Falcons clinched yet another district championship by getting the offense it lacked in the opener. In the end, Flora prevailed 13-6. Player Loving, who beat Chapin in the second round last Saturday, went 6.1 innings to get the mound decision. But the real story was the offense.
ACF, trailing 1-0 after two innings, tallied four runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth to turn it into a rout. Roy Faulks delivered a two-run double and Donald Gillespie followed with a two-run single in the third. David Hauser highlighted the four-run fourth with a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double. Hauser later hit a solo home run to finish with four RBIs.
Aaron Poole had a very productive night for the Falcons. He went 3-for-3 with a home run in the opener, and had two hits, scored three runs and drove in one in the nightcap. Faulks had three hits and four RBIs in the second game.
If Flora wins the LS opener, it will play at home on Monday. A loss keeps the Falcons on the road in the second round.