HANAHAN — The 2013 season is time for the Bishop England baseball team to reload. For the Bishops’ rival, Hanahan, it’s time to rebuild.
The two teams reached the Class AA Lower State Championship last May and Hanahan prevailed in another memorable showdown to advance to the State Championship Series against eventual champ Gilbert.
Tuesday night, the longtime rivals met again. The Bishops jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and cruised to an 8-0 victory thanks to a pair of home runs and some strong pitching. Tradd Lowman pitched a six-hitter as the Bishops upped their record to 3-1.
“We have a long way to go,” Bishop England coach Mike Darnell said. “We’ve got some really good pitching. That was one of our question marks at the beginning of the season. We’re a work in progress. We move parts here and there. When you are a small school, you have to have players who can play more than one position.”
Plenty has changed since last May’s showdown in the playoffs. The Hawks lost all but one starter from last year’s team that went 22-11. Shortstop/pitcher Seth Lancaster, a nucleus to build on, is back for his junior year, but that’s it as far as starters are concerned. Lancaster, who had three of the Hawks’ hits against the Bishops on Tuesday, has already committed to play for South Carolina.
There are two noticeable changes for the Hawks. They will compete at the Class AAA level, and, for the first time since 2004, there is no Hines brother on the team. Three of Bunky Hines’ sons — Ryan, Bryce and Bret — each had a major impact on the program, beginning with Ryan’s freshman season in 2005.
The Bishops, meanwhile, seem to be loaded for a run at the state championship. They went 19-12 last year and have many key personnel back from the team, including swift center fielder Zack Madden, who can cover a lot of ground on defense while hitting to all fields when he’s at the plate. He was 3 for 4 Tuesday with a single and a pair of doubles. He added two runs, two stolen bases and an RBI.
The Bishops have won state titles in every odd calendar year since 2003 and began the ’13 season in the No. 1 spot in the Class AA state coaches poll. Darnell winced when the poll was released in late winter, but the team seems to be growing comfortable in the role.
The Bishops jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Hawks sophomore Collin Strimpfel. Jonathan Browning doubled down the right-field line, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch. The Bishops’ other run came when Madden doubled down the right field line and scored on Harrison Boals’ single.
Patrick Clarey lined a two-run homer over the center field fence in the top of the second, and catcher Cameron Garrett deposited a two-run blast to left-center in the third, and the Bishops never looked back with a 6-0 lead.
Garrett picked off two runners, including one in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the shutout.
Lowman struck out four and didn’t allow a walk.
“Tradd is a good example of what we need to have happen,” Darnell. “Last year, he played right field and hardly pitched. But he was effective tonight.”