ROCK HILL — After splitting two games already this season, Fort Mill and Northwestern battled their way to the final of the seventh annual Wheels Baseball Invitational, guaranteeing a York County winner.
Just as in one of their previous games, Northwestern edged Fort Mill 3-2 to take home the Wheels title Saturday evening.
With the semifinals and final being played at South Pointe High, Fort Mill beat Arlington Country Day of Jacksonville, Fla., 6-4 in the first semifinal of the day and Northwestern pounded York 12-4 in the second, setting up the match-up between the familiar foes.
By the time the final rolled around, Fort Mill was running low on arms, and sent freshman Nick Matchunis to the mound. On the other end, the Trojans started senior Sammy Taormina, normally one of their relievers.
We were only going to throw Sammy two or three innings, said Northwestern coach Mitch Walters. That was his best outing of the year.
Jackets coach Brad Mercer said his team battled despite putting players on the mound without a lot of experience.
We had a good effort and they were just better than us today, Mercer said. We didnt get timely hits like we needed to. We didnt have a lot of experience on the hill, but everybody we put out there battled.
Fort Mill struck first in the bottom of the first inning, scoring on an RBI single from senior Preston Fry, which scored sophomore Brett Netzer, who came in from second after singling.
Northwestern would have none of Fort Mill scoring early and bounced right back in the top of the second to take the lead. Trojans junior outfielder Heath Sumwalt doubled in Chapman Gardiner and Kyle James to put the Trojans back on top 2-1
The Trojans kept that momentum going in the top of the third as Taormina singled to lead off the inning. Senior Shane Myers singled in junior Jake Rentz, who pinch ran for Taormina. That combination led to Matchunis being pulled for junior Collin Quinn. Quinn stopped the bleeding for Fort Mill, getting out of the inning allowing just one run for the Trojans.
Taormina showed control of his pitches early as he allowed just six hits through 4 1/3innings. He struck out four and walked none.
In the fifth inning, Fort Mill started to get to him. Jackets junior Logan Pizzuto singled and two passed balls moved him to third before he was doubled in by Jackets catcher Garrett Ray.
Taormina was replaced by Rentz, who got the Trojans out of the inning without allowing another run.
Rentz did his job and went 22/3 innings, allowing just one more Jackets hit while striking out three to get the save for Northwestern.
Quinn finished the game for Fort Mill going 42/3 and allowing just two Trojan hits.
Northwestern: Sammy Taormina, Dupree Hart, Kyle James, Michael Patrick
Fort Mill: Kevin Woods, Brett Netzer, Nathan Helvey
York: Matt Bostic, Keith Davis
South Pointe: Wade Hopper, Troy Rawls
Arlington Country Day: Blake Hennesey, Daniel Blanco
Rock Hill: Ethan Neely
Clover: Patrick Love
Midland Valley: Justin Williams
Each year the organizers of the tournament present the Larry Hinson Memorial Scholarship (a $500 one-time scholarship) to a local player whose team is host for one of the four playing sites.
This years winners, with their colleges of choice in parentheses, are: Northwestern: Sammy Taormina (Liberty); Rock Hill: Ben Berger (Clemson); South Pointe: Jacob Midkiff (Presbyterian); York: Greg Zelenak (The Citadel).
FORT MILL 2
Sammy Taormina, Jake Rentz (5) and Jensen Mikels (NW); Nick Matchunis, Collin Quinn (3) and Garrett Ray (FM). W Taormina, L Matchunis, S Rentz. 2B Dupree Hart (NW), Heath Sumwalt (NW), Garrett Ray (FM). Leading hitters: Dupree Hart 2-3 (NW), Brett Netzer 2-4 (FM). LOB: Northwestern 8, Fort Mill 6. Records: Northwestern 17-2, Fort Mill 15-4.
FORT MILL 6,
ARLINGTON COUNTRY DAY 4
Tim Kallah and Garrett Ray (FM); Billy Hein, Tyler Burress (1), Jose Lopez (5), Austin James Kubala (7) and Eury Diaz (ACD). W Kallah, L- Burress. 2B Blake Hennesey (ACD), Eury Diaz (ACD), Daniel Blanco (ACD). 3B Blake Hennesey (ACD), Kevin Woods (FM). HR Kevin Woods (FM). Leading hitters Kevin Woods 2-3 2 RBI (FM), Garrett Ray 2-3 (FM), Blake Hennesey 2-4 RBI (ACD). LOB Fort Mill 9, Arlington Country Day 6. Records: Fort Mill 15-3
Hunter Horne, Ryan Gilbert (2) and Greg Zelenak (Y); Jeremy Hyatt and Garrett Rast (NW). W Hyatt, L Gilbert. 2B Kevin Hamby (Y), Michael Patrick (NW). HR Sammy Taormina (NW). Leading hitters: Kevin Hamby 3-4 (Y), Dupree Hart 2-3 RBI (NW), Sammy Taormina 2-4 2 RBI (NW), Josh Crump 2-3 (NW), Michael Patrick 2-4 (NW) LOB York 5, Northwestern 5.