High School Sports

Living the dream! Dutch Fork baseball wins first state championship

Raw video: Dutch Fork Silver Foxes win baseball state championship

The Dutch Fork Silver Foxes baseball team defeated the Blythewood Bengals for the 2019 state championship.
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The Dutch Fork Silver Foxes baseball team defeated the Blythewood Bengals for the 2019 state championship.

Sam Hatcher had a postseason to remember as Dutch Fork baseball finally earned the program’s first state championship it wanted so much.

Hatcher got out of three tough situations in consecutive innings as the Silver Foxes defeated Blythewood 2-1 Friday in front of a raucous crowd at the Columbia Fireflies’ Segra Park to win the Class 5A state title.

“I knew we were the best school in the state and wanted to do it for my guys,” Hatcher said. “We don’t give up. We are relentless and we don’t get nervous.”

----- ORDER PHOTO REPRINTS FROM DUTCH FORK’S CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY -----

The atmosphere was similar to the one six years ago when Blythewood played Lexington in the deciding game for the title at USC’s Founders Park. The venue was different but the fans hung on every pitch in a nail-biting final few innings.

For the second time in the series, Hatcher kept the Bengals’ bats at bay. In game one, the junior pitched eight strong innings and got a no-decision in the 2-1 loss in extra innings.

On Friday, Hatcher was called upon to come in with the Silver Foxes leading 2-1 and two runners on with two outs in the fifth. He got the Bengals’ Michael Gregory to ground out to end the threat.

In the sixth, Blythewood got the tying runner on third and one out but Hatcher retired the next two batters to end the threat.

In the seventh, Blythewood’s John Lanier doubled to right with two outs. Hatcher struck out the next batter to get the save and was mobbed by his teammates on the field.

Hatcher gave up just an earned run on eight hits in 10 1/3 innings pitched in the championship series.

“He’s got ice in his veins,” Dutch Fork coach Casey Waites said. “He doesn’t try to overpower people. He throws his curveball, change-up and a couple fastballs. Awesome job. Twenty-five guys that hung in there and won a state title.”

Dutch Fork finished third in Region 5-5A, one of the toughest conferences in the state and spent much of the playoffs on the road, playing only two home games.

The Silver Foxes proved to be the toughest when they needed it the most in the playoffs. Dutch Fork went 6-0 in elimination games in the playoffs and won the last two games of the series.

“We are battled-tested from the conference we are in,” Waites said. “I have had a blast in these elimination games. The nerves were in trying to make the playoffs, but this was fun. “I’m just living the dream tonight with these guys right here.”

Junior Doug Webb picked up the win for the Silver Foxes, giving up an unearned run on three hits in 4 ⅔ innings. Dutch Fork’s pitching staff held the Bengals to four runs in 23 innings during the championship series.

Senior shortstop Crosby Jones had the game-winning RBI for the Silver Foxes in the fourth inning. The Citadel signee hit a single to center to score Noah Jackson, who led off the inning with a single.

“It was a fastball in. I was just trying to push it out and get the run in,” Jones said. “This is a great way to go out. It was a team effort with a great group of guys and I’m glad we got it done.”

Jackson had two hits and scored both of the Silver Foxes’ runs.

Dutch Fork took scored first in the top of the second. Jackson led off with a single and Jones bunted him over to second and he moved to third on Lance Fuhr’s groundout.

Jackson scored on a passed ball to make it 1-0.

Blythewood answered back in the bottom of the second on a Dutch Fork error on a pick-off attempt to second that allowed Harrison Lambert to score.

But the Bengals couldn’t get across the tying run and stranded eight runners on base in the game. Blythewood coach Banks Faulkner gathered his team down the left field corner and believes it will be only a matter of time before the Bengals win a state title.

“We fought to the last out and couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Faulkner, who won a state title with Summerville three years ago. “Sometimes the game is cruel and this one is going to take a while. We got this program back where we they think it should be. We are going to win a state championship at Blythewood and when we do it is because of these guys.”

WP: Doug Webb. LP: Landon Lucas. S: Sam Hatcher. Hitters: DF: Noah Jackson 2-3, Crosby Jones 1-2 RBI; Price Alexander 1-3 . B: John Lanier 2-4; Harrison Lamber 2-3

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