Griffins Strand Chances at Pelion

Friday evening’s rematch against Region III-2A leader Pelion High School (7-0/10-2) was a marked improvement for the Fairfield Central baseball program (5-3/8-8), but after seven gritty innings the outcome was ultimately no better than their March 19 meeting, as the Griffins fell 6-2 on the road. Last month, the Panthers trounced Fairfield in Winnsboro, 14-3, and the Griffins were looking for a better outing Friday as they scrap for playoff position.

The Griffins got off to an encouraging start Friday, sending six men to the plate in the top of the first, but the Baseball Gods can be fickle. Leadoff hitter Javarius Cook reached after being hit by a 1-0 pitch, but was hung up between first and third when a fly ball off the bat of Chris Boyd dropped between first and right field. Compton Walker was then hit by a pitch, as Pelion starter Tyler Poole struggled early with command. Poole would eventually hit six Griffins before being lifted in the sixth for Pelion ace Zack Hawkins.

With Boyd on second and Walker on first, Jarvis Kennedy smashed an RBI double to right, giving the Griffins an early lead. Poole then settled in to strike out the rest of the side.

The Panthers answered with a run in the bottom half after leadoff man Josh Lane drew a free pass from Boyd, stole second, went to third on a single by Mark Kneece and scored on a passed ball. Although Boyd struggled with the top half of the Panthers’ lineup, the bottom third presented no problems and he was able to cruise through the second inning with just 10 pitches.

The Panthers inflicted critical damage in the third, however, taking the lead for good and forcing Boyd from the game after just two complete innings of work. Boyd walked the first two Pelion batters in the third, then gave up a two-RBI double to Hawkins. Hawkins went to third on a passed ball, then scored when Kneece hit into a 4-6-3 double play off reliever Brandon Adams.

Poole, meanwhile, found his rhythm, shutting down the Griffins in order in the third and striking out three of four batters in the fourth. The Griffins looked to rally in the fifth, putting together back-to-back-to-back singles from Boyd, Walker and Kennedy to load the bases with one out. After Poole struck out Chris Raley, Ta’Quan Kelly earned the RBI by getting plunked with a 1-2 pitch. Poole then struck out Tyrell Hill to end the Griffins’ threat and hold on to the 4-2 lead.

The Panthers added their final two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Daniel Hawkins led off with a single, then stole second. Zack Hawkins drove him in with an RBI single and went to second on the throw home from left. He would come around to score on a sacrifice fly by Dominick Holderness.

Poole gave the Griffins plenty of opportunities, but escaped by allowing only two earned runs in five-plus innings of work. He gave up six hits, struck out nine and walked none, while hitting six batters. Zack Hawkins was dominant in two innings of relief, striking out four of the six batters faced while surrendering just one hit.

For Fairfield, Boyd worked two-plus innings, giving up two hits, four runs and five walks. Adams worked the final four frames, giving up two hits, two runs, two walks and striking out a pair. Kennedy led the Griffins offensively, going 3-for-4 at the plate with a double, a pair of singles and an RBI. Cook had the unusual honor of being hit by a pitch three times Friday.