EASLEY, S.C. — Sean Hanhauser and his District I teammates were in a tough spot.
The Kent County Big League baseball all-stars were leading Michigan by two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday afternoon.
But the U.S. Central champions had the bases loaded with two outs.
And then lightning struck — or at least lightning was close enough to bring the World Series game to halt.
Now Hanhauser, District I’s pitcher, had 30 minutes to think about the nail-biting situation.
Hanhauser, though, got a groundout when the game resumed and Michigan went quietly after that as Kent County posted a 4-2 victory over Michigan in its World Series opener on Tuesday afternoon.
Dover’s Hanhauser ended up recording the final five outs of the contest, striking out two, as he sent Michigan down in order in the seventh.
“I just tried keeping the same approach,” the Polytech High grad said about sitting through the lightning delay, “going back out there, throwing strikes and getting the last out.
“I wasn’t really nervous because I’ve been in that situation plenty of times. But I tried keeping calm and having the right approach.”
“He performed like the all-conference player that he is,” said District I manager Kevin Turner from Dover.
Starting off the nine-team, double-elimination tournament with a victory was big for District I, the U.S. East champions. Teams that fall into the losers’ bracket right away often don’t recover.
Kent County still has to turn right around and face Texas today at 4 p.m. The Southwest champions received a first-round bye in the tourney.
“You never know what to expect because you don’t get to see anybody (beforehand) — especially playing in the first game of the tournament,” said Turner. “You just hope your best is better than their best.
“I think it lets them know we belong,” Turner said about getting the win. “The pressure of coming here and you could be ‘two-and-barbeque’ — because that’s going to happen to somebody. ... It’s not going to happen to us. Now they can feel good about coming here, to this kind of stage, and relax a little bit.”
After falling behind 2-0 in the second inning, Kent County battled back with two runs in the fourth.
Corey Everage (Smyrna-Clayton) walked and scored when Milford’s Tommy Jordan lined a single to right. Aven Purnell then scored the tying run when fellow Dover High grad Dakota Graham was walked with the bases loaded.
District I took the lead for good with a run in the fifth. After Dover’s Kendall Small doubled, Hanhauser lined an RBI single to centerfield.
In the sixth, Adrian Hill (Dover) singled and was later driven in by Tevin Thomas (Dover) with an insurance run. District I had only five hits but Michigan walked seven and hit a batter.
“I thought we were a little nervous,” said Turner. “But I thought once we had a couple things happen that were positive for us, I thought we loosened up and the game started to fall into our style of game.”
Turner was proud of the resiliency of the four pitchers he used: Travis Dill (Camden-Wyoming), A.J. Johnson (Dover), John Barkley (Smyrna-Clayton) and Hanhauser. Barkley, who pitched 1.1 shutout innings, earned the victory.
The District I pitching staff gave up seven hits but struck out 10 and walked only three. They also stranded eight runners on base.
“Every one of our pitchers that was brought into a situation just really stepped up,” said Turner. “They all came in with runners on base and every time, they got us out of it.”
Things probably won’t get any easier for District I from here. If they lose to Texas today, the Kent County all-stars will play again on Thursday night.
But the winner of today’s contest doesn’t play again until Saturday night.
“We just want to keep the momentum going,” said Turner.