Brian Alderson wanted more energy.
His North Myrtle Beach baseball team gave it to him.
One night after giving up an early lead in a key region loss to Lake City, a keyed up Chiefs lineup delivered a 4-3 victory over league front runner St. James on Tuesday. North Myrtle Beach won the game with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, including Donald Hansis’ walk-off, bases loaded single that brought home Chase Hudson to end it.
“We’re starting to think a little bit too much,” Hansis said of the difference between the two games. “We needed to get back to the game we were playing when we were on a winning streak. … This is the first year we’ve gotten used to winning. I think we went into that game expecting to win.”
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Against St. James, a team that was previous undefeated in Region VII-AAA, there was a noticeable difference for Alderson. His players were vocal throughout, and it helped them to a fast start.
North Myrtle Beach scored two in the first with some timely hitting and some added pressure created by running. The Chiefs stole three bases in the frame and scored their first run on Michael Genovese’s hit-and-run RBI single that drove in leadoff hitter Matt McGhee.
Hansis added his first RBI of the evening moments later and then stole a pair of bases.
However, St. James pitcher Grayson Stoneking helped the Sharks get back on top by settling down for the next four innings. He struck out nine hitters, allowing only those two runs and three total hits before leaving prior to the sixth with what coach Robbie Centracchio described as a tweaked back.
Kolby Robtoy worked a perfect sixth, but the Chiefs repeated their early ways in the seventh.
No. 9 hitter Cole Gasque was the first (and only) North Myrtle Beach hitter in the bottom third of the order to reach base all night when he singled to start the inning. McGhee bunted him over to second, and Hudson’s hit to the outfield tied the game.
Michael Genovese and Dalton Simpson walked, loading the bases for Hansis. A single to left, then, pushed North Myrtle Beach into sole possession of second place in the region, a half game ahead of Lake City and Myrtle Beach.
“I told them win, lose or draw, let’s go out there with some intensity and fire and have fun,” Alderson said. “The game’s supposed to be fun. [Against Lake City], we were flat and stale and drug around a good bit.
“Tonight, we showed up.”
For St. James, the loss was the first against an in-state program in nearly three weeks. More importantly, it prevented the Sharks from inching closer to another region title.
They are still a full game ahead of North Myrtle Beach and can clinch a playoff spot as early as Friday without playing another region game.
“We were playing like we were in good shape,” Centracchio said. “We can’t play like that. We need to get better every week, and we have. One game is not going to determine if we get better or not. But North Myrtle Beach played more with a ‘have to win this game.’”
That was evidenced by an aggressive start and then the quality finish, something that may have been spurred by a bit of a tongue lashing from Alderson following the Lake City loss.
▪ W: Dalton Simpson L: Cameron Dean Top hitters: St. James: Parker Rabon 2-3, 2 RBI; Grayson Stoneking 2-3, Run; Liam Bloom 3-4, 2B, Run; Anthony Peck 1-3, RBI. North Myrtle Beach: Donald Hansis 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 SB; Chase Hudson 2-4, RBI, Run; Michael Genovese 1-2, 2 BB, RBI, 2 Runs.
▪ Records: St. James 11-3, 5-1 Region VII-AAA; North Myrtle Beach 10-4, 4-2