ANDERSON — Winning a share of the region championship in baseball, a one seed in the playoffs and a district title is something that hadn’t been done at T.L Hanna in a long time.
The 2014 Yellow Jackets accomplished all of that heading into Wednesday’s elimination game against Rock Hill, but a 5-0 deficit before they ever stepped to the plate was more than Hanna could overcome in a 9-2 loss at home to the Bearcats that ended the Jackets’ postseason run.
“It’s a true testament to the character of the 23 guys that I’ve got on the team, and especially my 10 seniors,” second-year Hanna coach Daniel Crenshaw said about this team’s success. “This (loss is) going to sting for a long time, but these guys were able to accomplish a lot this year.”
Hanna’s quest for an Upper and state title ended with a 20-11 overall record.
A night after suffering a close loss at Northwestern, the Yellow Jackets struggled to get out of the first inning against Rock Hill. Sophomore starting pitcher Brent Reynolds gave up two runs to the Bearcats before recording an out. Crenshaw then turned the game over to senior Max McDougald, and three more runs came in before the Jackets got out of the frame.
“You never want to feel like you’re out of it, especially after one half inning, but give credit to Rock Hill,” Crenshaw said. “They came out with a great approach at the plate, really squared up some balls. Good luck to those guys as they travel up to Northwestern Friday.”
Hanna got runners on base and a run on the scoreboard in the second inning on senior Samuel Reinert’s RBI sacrifice fly that cut the lead to four.
But the Bearcats weren’t done. In the top of the third, they scored four runs – all with two outs – off McDougald to take a commanding 9-1 advantage.
“We didn’t come out as hot as we usually do,” McDougald, a Wofford signee, said. “We’ve battled back before and we were positive in the dugout. The pitcher did a good job of keeping us off balance. We just couldn’t fight back and get those big runs in a big inning that we needed. We just couldn’t get the bats going. It was just one of those nights we’re banging balls around, they’re just not finding holes.”
That was more than Rock Hill starting pitcher Zach Carter needed, and he went the rest of the way, holding Hanna scoreless for four innings until McDougald finished off his career with an RBI double to left-center in the seventh.
That turned out to be the final run of the season as the Yellow Jackets had an emotional postgame meeting in left field.
“I’ve been on the team since ninth grade,” McDougald said. “We went to the district championship my sophomore year but nothing like this. It was fun. It was a heck of a ride.”