By Justin Jarrett
A little over a month ago, first-year Beaufort High baseball coach Zach Jacobs saw his team at a crossroads. The Eagles had dropped three straight heading into a challenging spring break tournament, but the back half of the Region 7-4A schedule was favorable. Some young talent was beginning to emerge, but the chemistry was missing something.
Jacobs did something few first-time head coaches would have dared and dismissed a couple of veteran players from the team and replaced them on the roster with young players who had bought into the new coaching staff’s team-first philosophy.
The Eagles went 1-2 in that tournament with both losses coming in hard-fought games against quality opponents, and they’ve been on a tear ever since, winning five of their last six regular-season games before ripping through the Class 4A District 6 tournament with three straight wins to punch their ticket to the Lower State bracket for a second straight year. Beaufort travels to Hartsville to open the double-elimination tournament on Thursday.
“There’s a new feeling with this group that they feel like they belong and can compete with anybody,” Jacobs said. “They play together and have each other’s back. It’s become one big family.”
The Eagle family endured some ups and downs this year, but they’ve been flying high lately and claimed the district crown with a 4-1 win over visiting Aiken on Monday after advancing to the championship round with a pair of extra-inning victories.
Beaufort ace PJ Daley was dealing in the district finale, striking out five and allowing just four hits and one walk over six innings while allowing one unearned run, and Zack Talbert struck out two in a perfect seventh to earn the save and scored twice out of the leadoff spot, setting the table for Jacobs’ “get him on, get him over, get him in” brand of baseball.
Talbert led off the bottom of the first with a single, swiped second and moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on the first of Mason Connelly’s two hits. After the Hornets tied it in the fourth, the Eagles turned the momentum back in their favor with some serious small ball in the fifth. Malcom Webb bunted his way on and took second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored when Talbert reached on an error. The Eagles’ leadoff man then stole second and came around to score on an error for a 3-1 lead.
Beaufort tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when Logan Brutcher and Carter Bowersox came up with back-to-back singles to start the inning and Brutcher came home on Webb’s sacrifice fly.
Win or lose at Hartsville on Thursday, the Eagles will be back in action Saturday, facing either James Island or Airport.