HANAHAN — For the second time in three years, the Hanahan Hawks baseball team hosted Game 1 of the Class AA state championship series.
And for the second time in three years, the Hawks fell behind 4-0 early in the game and could not recover.
Gilbert catcher Collins Shirley staked his team to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning Monday night when he hit a Kyle Dyson fastball over the wall in left center for a grand slam and that ignited Indians to an 8-3 victory before a standing-room-only crowd at Sportsman Field.
Two years ago, Chesnee traveled to Hanahan and took a 4-0 lead in the second inning en route to an 11-0 victory. Chesnee claimed the state crown in three games in 2010.
Gilbert, 29-2, can win its third title since 2006 with a victory at home on Wednesday.
“Any time you grab the lead early, grab the momentum, it’s a big plus,” Gilbert coach Ashley Burnett said. “Any time you win that first one on the road, it’s good. That homer in the first certainly sparked us.”
The Indians loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman against Dyson in the first and with two outs, Shirley blasted a 1-0 pitch over the wall. Dyson had control trouble all game, walking four and hitting two batters. All six Indians who reached base scored.
“He struggled,” Hanahan coach Brian Mitchell said of Dyson, who will pitch for Charleston Southern. “But we hope he’s back on the bump Wednesday for Game 3.
Gilbert collected eight hits and two were homers. Connor Owings added a two-run shot in the fourth. Owings has great bloodlines and is a baseball thoroughbred. His oldest brother, Chris, was a first-round pick in the 2009 draft and another brother, Kyle, plays for the College of Charleston. Connor is headed for Coastal Carolina.
Austin LaBounty, a right-handed pitcher who will play for the South Carolina Gamecocks, had control issues of his own but managed to up his record to 8-0.
He pitched 41/3 innings and allowed three hits, three runs (one earned) and walked three. He struck out six, including the side in the fourth.
Owings came in in relief in the fifth inning and surrendered two walks and a two-run double to Skylar Hunter. But he settled down to retire the last seven batters he faced.
Hanahan advanced to the state championship series with two dramatic victories at Bishop England on Friday night. Burnett expects the Hawks to put up a fight.
“They are too good to quit,” he said. “That’s not in their blood. We might pitch (Mike) Morrison, (Drew) Moyer or (Blake) Shirley. The way they swing the bats, we might have to pitch all three.”
Gilbert 410 210 0—8 8 2 Hanahan 100 020 0—3 4 1
WP—LaBounty. LP—Dyson. Next: Game 2 of the best-of-3 series at Gilbert on Wednesday.