Back on June 2, 2014, North Myrtle Beach Athletics Director Joe Quigley made his rounds, phoning select media to inform them that he had hired a new baseball coach.
Quigley’s voice held a noticeable excitability to it.
On Friday, nearly 23 months after those calls, the turnaround of the Chiefs program took a giant leap forward. North Myrtle Beach defeated rival Myrtle Beach 7-1 in a win that clinched a No. 2 finish in Region VII-AAA and a home playoff game.
It will be the first time the school has hosted a first-round postseason contest since 2007 and just the second time since the South Carolina High School League instituted its current seedings system prior to the 2002 season.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere around here now. These kids believe they can win,” NMB coach Brian Alderson said after his team beat the Seahawks. “When I first got here, they doubted themselves quite a bit. They definitely believe they can win now.”
“There were a lot of doubts,” senior Michael Genovese said. “We’re not used to winning at all. We’re used to getting beat around, bad and wishing our way into the playoffs.”
The Chiefs have known they would be bound for the postseason for more than a week. And had they lost against Myrtle Beach, they would be hitting the road next Friday when the playoffs begin.
Instead, they closed it out with some authority.
Starting pitcher Dylan Doolittle went the distance, allowing six hits – and only more than one in an inning once – and struck out six while keeping the Seahawks from ever stringing much together.
The Chiefs offense also played with an aggressiveness that Myrtle Beach seemed to lack, something Seahawks coach Tim Christy credited North Myrtle Beach with doing en route to staking itself to a five-run lead. The Chiefs scored one in the first, two in the second and two more in the fifth despite stranding five runners in that span.
The opportunities were there, while Myrtle Beach failed to make much of theirs.
“We have to throw strikes, play defense and have a great approach at the plate,” Christy said. “And really, [Friday] we didn’t do any of the three. We walked six and hit two. Our approach at the plate was terrible. We just picked a bad night to play bad.”
Because of the loss – and St. James’ win over Lake City – the Seahawks will be at either Marlboro County or Darlington next Friday. Those two teams and much of Region VI-AAA needed extra time to finish their regular seasons and will cap those Monday. After that, either Darlington or Marlboro County will come to Little River.
Alderson, who is in just his second year coaching in South Carolina, wasn’t aware of just how much of a statistical advantage it has been of late to play at home in the playoffs. Even without knowing it stands at around 80 percent or so from year to year, he felt comfortable pointing out what that meant.
“We’ve got a chance to play at home,” Alderson said. “And I think that’s a big deal.”
▪ W - Dylan Doolittle. L - Michael Calamari. Top hitters: Calamari 1-2, BB, HBP; Luke Edwards 2-3, 2B, BB. North Myrtle Beach: Donald Hansis 1-3, 2B, BB, SB, RBI, 2 Runs; Michael Genoves 2-4, 2B, SB, RBI, Run.
▪ Records: Myrtle Beach 11-13, 7-3 Region VII-AAA; North Myrtle Beach 15-6, 7-3.