McDONOUGH — For five innings Tuesday afternoon, the Dar-lington Tigers’ baseball team kept top-seeded Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy close, hoping to possibly mount a late-inning rally to upset the Chargers.
Those thoughts ended in the top of the sixth inning — in this game ELCA was the visiting team even though it was played at their stadium — when the Chargers exploded and almost short circuited the scoreboard in centerfield, piling up 17 runs on 15 hits against five different Darlington pitchers.
The massive rally put any upset thoughts to rest and allowed ELCA to cruise to a 24-5 mercy-run victory.
“That was a tough game. We ran into a buzzsaw. ELCA really got the job done. They hit the baseball from the top of the order to the bottom of the order,” Darlington coach Kent Harrison said.
“We got a little momentum going, but it seemed like they (ELCA) managed to make the big play to stop our rallies. We just weren’t able to make the big play to stop theirs,” he said. “You have to do that against great opponents, and we weren’t able to get that job done today.”
ELCA seemed to have the game in hand going into the bottom of the fifth inning with a 7-1 lead, but the Tigers’ bats came alive.
Drake Frix and David Grindstaff started off the bottom of the inning by each reaching base on infield singles.
Brad Butler drove Frix in on a single to centerfield. Alec Redden then reached base on an error that allowed Grindstaff to score, cutting the ELCA lead to 7-3.
Miles Bearden singled to leftfield, scoring Butler.
Logan Rice then hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Redden and cutting the Chargers’ lead to 7-5, but Darlington wasn’t able to score any more runs in the inning.
Trailing 2-0 early in the game, Rice drilled the first pitch of the bottom of the second inning over the leftfield fence cutting the ELCA lead to 2-1.
The Chargers scored runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth inning before the offensive deluge in the sixth.
Offensively for the Tigers, Rice recorded two RBIs and Grindstaff walked twice and had two singles.
For the Chargers, Dalton Etheridge was one of several players with a good day at the plate going 3 for 4 with two singles and a double, scoring three runs and recording six RBIs.
Darlington pitcher Robert Muschamp took the loss, while ELCA’s Josh Smith took the victory.
ELCA advances to the Class A Private School State Championship series which opens with a doubleheader at ELCAon Saturday versus Mt. Paran. If needed, the third game is scheduled to be played on Monday.
“It was a great season. We had 26 wins and these players and these seniors mean so much to the program. I’m so proud of the effort they have given,” Harrison said. “I hate that we fell a little short, but I’m so proud of the effort we gave, and the job we were able to do.”
The Tigers say good bye to seven seniors on the squad, but Harrison said he hopes the younger players can feed off of this years run to the final four.
“We have a lot of young guys coming back and hopefully they can get the hunger to get back here and maybe go further next year,” he said.