FORT MILL — This is the kind of game where theres no question you pitch your ace.
At Fort Mill High, thats still a decision, and thats why the Yellow Jackets are here.
Blessed with a pair of top-shelf starting pitchers, Andrew Tomasovich and Nathan Helvey, Fort Mill is a step away from the state championship series.
Every time either one of them is on the mound, weve got a chance to win, Fort Mill coach Brad Mercer said. Weve got other pitchers who have done a good job for us all year in key spots.
But whenever Andrew and Nathan are out there, you play with a little more confidence, because you know you dont have to score many runs, because theyve shut people down all year.
The Yellow Jackets (25-4) host the winner of Thursdays Belton-Honea Path/Union game at 5 p.m. Friday for the Class AAA Upper State title, needing to win one game (of a possible two) to advance.
Tomasovich will start, and Helvey will be ready to come on in relief if need be, or to start the second game. That gives them a certain confidence in advancing.
Neither has lost a decision this year, but thats only the beginning of the similarities.
Theyre both 6-foot-4, though Helveys the broader of the two. Tomasovich is left-handed. Thats about the extent of the differences.
Their pitching stats are nearly identical, with microscopic edges in several categories leaning Helveys way.
Maybe thats why hes the first to answer when the inevitable question comes up.
I am, Helvey said with a laugh when asked which was the better pitcher.
Tomasovich just laughed, knowing it was coming.
The two know each other well enough to finish each others sentences, but the topic of competition is well enough known that they can answer before the questions all-the-way asked.
We really are kind of 1A and 1B, Helvey said.
I mean, neither one of us has lost yet, so its kind of hard to decide, Tomasovich said with a grin.
They joke about the friendly battles. Helvey rises up on the balls of his feet when they discuss strikeouts (his 92 to his pals 87) or other stats.
Asked if they ever throw batting practice against each other, more laughter.
No way, Tomasovich said. Coach wouldnt go for it. He knows wed hit each other.
Theyll be able to next year as well. Helveys signed with College of Charleston, Tomasovich with Charleston Southern.
And while both could be selected in Major League Baseballs amateur draft (June 4-6), both said they were leaning toward going to school instead.
The way I look at it, we can only get better, Helvey said.
Thats a scary prospect, given how dominant theyve been this year.
Tomasovichs 1.09 ERA is tremendous, but not even the best on the staff (Helvey, again, with an 0.84)
Thats given Fort Mill an edge all year long, as it flipped the order midway through the region season so teams wouldnt draw a bead on someone they had seen before.
But at this point, the competition is such that scouting reports matter less than raw talent.
And thats why the Yellow Jackets are feeling so lucky.
People ask me all the time who the number one is, and I cant answer it, Mercer said. They both throw the ball extremely well. From a baseball standpoint, Andrew can probably go longer, and Nathan can get up in a hurry and throw an inning if you need it.
But to be honest with you, its a call you cant make. Theyre both that good.
Darin Gantt 803-326-4312