BE baseball does it again!
Geoffrey Gilbert was golden. Gregory Sanders was Mr. Clutch. And, the team was opportunistic. That combination made the Bishop England High School baseball team the Class AAA state champions -– again.
The Bishops capped an incredible season with a 1-0 victory at Seneca on May 15 to capture the state title and conclude the season with a 31-2 record. It marked the third time in the fabled program’s history that the Bishops topped 30 victories in a season. The other 30-win seasons came in 1997 and ’98 when future University of South Carolina All-American Drew Meyer was the main man on campus.
Is this the greatest team in BE history? Let the debate begin.
“It is definitely one of the top teams we have had here,” said coach Mike Darnell, who guided his team through a season that might be best described as the year of great expectations. “To have such high expectations and win two tournaments and the AAA state championship is quite an accomplishment.”
The Bishops opened the season with a title in the prestigious International Paper Baseball Classic in Georgetown and added more hardware to the trophy case with a championship in the Hanahan Invitational Tournament. They saved their best for last, sweeping the State Championship Series, 2-0.
The Bishops opened the series with a 2-1 victory and then clinched it with their ace on the mound. Lefty Geoffrey Gilbert went the distance, allowing only three hits.
“It was probably one of his best as a pure pitcher,” Darnell said of Gilbert. “He didn’t strike out as many as he did vs. Gilbert (in the Lower State Championship Series). But he was able to pitch to contact, and keep the entire team in the game along with keeping his pitch count down.”
The Bishops are masters of opportunistic baseball and gave the home team a glimpse of how they manufactured runs in 2018. The Bishops also had only three hits but made the most of them.
In the top of the third, Leo Albano reached on a walk, stole second and scored on a single by Sanders. That was all Gilbert needed as the Bishops claimed their ninth state title and fifth under Darnell. The nine state championships put the Bishops in a three-way tie with Chapin and Brookland-Cayce for second place in state history. Bamberg-Ehrhardt holds the state record with 15 state titles.
Darnell has a 288-108 record at BE and should join an exclusive fraternity of about 30 coaches who have won 300 games. He had 36 victories at SCISA school Cardinal Newman that pushes his victory total to 324. But the High School League doesn’t recognize SCISA wins for its Palmetto’s Finest record book.
The Bishops were the No. 30 team in the country according to MaxPreps, but will be a different team next year. The roster listed 21 players in 2018 and 12 were seniors.
“We lose a ton of character with the 12 seniors who are graduating,” Darnell said. “We will be young and inexperienced in some positions. The fact that many of those guys were call-up guys from JV for the playoffs should help them next year.”
Either way, expectations will be great next year. After all, this is Bishop England baseball.
“Expectations are always the same here -- win a state championship,” Darnell said. “We are probably going to take some lumps early trying to figure out who will fill some of our vacant roles, but we expect those guys to figure it out and play up to the expectations put on them by the program.”