Predators fall to Knights in walk-off fashion
Facing a daunting task on Friday, the Fox Creek High School baseball team fell in its quest to win a state title.
The Predators (25-4) were tasked with heading to Greenville and beating a St. Joseph’s team that was on a quest to defend its state championship. On top of that, the Knights had only lost one game their season opener against Travelers Rest in February. And Fox Creek had to beat St. Joseph’s twice in one day.
To get to that point, however, Fox Creek first took down Lewisville, 9-4, at home. Andrew Buist, who hadn’t started a game since Fox Creek lost its first game of the year against Ridge Spring-Monetta, got the start.
“He was our No. 1 pitcher for two years coming into this season,” said Wesley Brown, Fox Creek head coach. “His location and accuracy weren’t really good this year when it got later in the year, that’s why we started riding on Dalton (Swires) a little more. The scouting report we had on Lewisville was somebody who threw a lot of off-speed pitching and I figured with our defense we could make the routine plays. I took a chance, I really took a chance that late in the year, but Andrew had more innings than anybody in the school since he’s been here.
“He had been in pressure situations before, and I knew he could handle it. He went out there and did a good job.”
Fox Creek jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first. Darshon Broadwater and Forrest Whitfield both had RBIs and Brandyn Quiller drove in the final two with a single. That lead was extended in the second by two more, to put the Lions in an early 6-0 deficit. Christian Clark, who started for Lewisville, was pulled.
In the third the Lions answered with three runs and in the fourth they added another one to pull within two runs. The Predators had three errors in the two innings which led to runs.
“I think, jumping out to that big of a lead, the kids got complacent,” Brown said. “There wasn’t anything anyone could really do they just had to figure out that they had to keep it going. Once Lewisville started chipping away they woke back up and came through for us in the fifth inning.”
In the fifth the Predators tacked on three more, and that would hold up as the final score, 9-4, to set up a showdown with St. Joseph’s, the team that beat Fox Creek 10-1 earlier in the week.
Fox Creek led going into the bottom of the seventh, 2-1. The Knights’ David Marable delivered a walk-off, bases loaded hit that plated the winning run and pushed St. Joseph’s to a 3-2 victory and the Upper State title.
“We had a walk and two passed balls that put us in that position,” Brown said. “Hats off to them, they did what they had to, but we didn’t help the situation. We played a flawless game until the seventh inning and we pretty much shut them down. That was the first time that team has been shut down in two years.”
Brent Lacey started the game for the Predators and cruised through six innings. Things unraveled in the seventh, though, and the team’s closer, Michael Hill, who walked the only batter he faced. Brown quickly pulled him for Swires, who gave up the final hit to Marable.
Three years ago, when Brown took the job, he was asked where he wanted this program to be. In three years, he said, he wanted to take the team to the Upper State title game. This year’s team accomplished just that.
“One of the goals I had was not to just be a good, power A team, but one of the top two teams in the area, at least on the South Carolina side,” Brown said. “By George if we didn’t do it, because the other team was South Aiken. We’re right where I had envisioned us in being and nobody can look past us anymore.”
The team will lose a considerable amount of talent to graduation this year. Lacey, Hill, Chris Duran, Justin Anderson and Caleb Cox all will graduate. Many key contributors will return, however and this team has a bright outlook.
“I’m very happy with where the program is at right now,” Brown said. “We’ve hit that ground where we’ve made a name for ourselves in the A class and everyone knows who we are now. Got here my first year, and we weren’t very good, but they worked their tails off to get to where we are. I think we’re going to be a mainstay for years to come in A baseball and the area as well.”
Scott Rodgers is a reporter at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.