Going into Thursday night’s game, the Rock Hill Bearcats knew they would need some help from other teams to make the playoffs. But first, they would have to upset the crosstown rival Northwestern Trojans, who have not lost a Region 3, Class AAAA game this season and have clinched the region and the number one seed in the playoffs.
That was not to be for the young Bearcats, as the favored Trojans scored three in the first inning and never looked back in a 10-4 victory on their rivals’ home field. The loss has Rock Hill’s playoff chances hanging by a thread, pending the results of some other region games, notably Fort Mill’s.
The Yellow Jackets defeated York 10-0 Thursday night. The Rock Hill - Northwestern game was moved up from Friday in anticipation of rain in the area.
It was senior night for the Bearcats and the game started with a nice touch. Rock Hill senior shortstop Tad Martin, who has been sidelined with a lengthy back injury, started the top of the first at short and was then lifted for Caleb Hamilton after the first pitch.
The fans showed their appreciation for Martin, and even Trojans leadoff hitter and fellow-shortstop Dupree Hart embraced him before he left the field in a classy show of respect that went beyond the rivalry. Martin is headed to the College of Charleston after this year to continue his baseball career. There were more hugs and tears for the Bearcats after the game as well.
“I have respect for Tad as a ballplayer, but the way he’s handled the difficulty the last couple weeks, I have ten times more respect for him as a human being,” Rock Hill coach Keith Cottrell said. “In today’s environment with kids, they go and pout, and they look for somebody to pat them on the back. And Tad was out front every day leading, even though he couldn’t play. I respect the heck out of the way that kid handled himself.”
The Trojans (22-2) scored three runs on three hits and three stolen bases in the first inning. That would be a theme for the night as the visitors swiped six bags total. Jonathan Smith, Cam Norwood, and Garrett Rast had RBIs in the inning. Norwood was 2-for-3 in the game, including a triple.
Northwestern scored three more runs in the second. Sophomore Tripp Barringer started the inning with a double and scored when Drew Patrick bunted to third and the throw got away at first base.
Hart singled home Barringer, who was 3-for-3 with an RBI. Josh Crump made it 6-0 one out later with a sacrifice fly to center for the first of his two RBI. He also singled home Hart in the sixth. Only one of the runs was earned and four of the Trojans’ runs on the night were unearned. Both teams made four errors.
Jake Rentz had a no-hitter through four and had faced the minimum amount of batters until the Bearcats scratched their way back into the game in the fifth.
“As cheesy as it sounds, and people don’t like it because they see wins and losses, when you spend as much time with kids and you teach for a living, to see kids grow character-wise is a victory,” Cottrell said. “ I don’t like losing and I don’t like losing to a rival, but the way our kids chose to handle themselves, I’m proud of them.”
Isaac Rodgers broke up the no hitter with a solid infield single up the middle to lead off the fifth inning. One out later, Hamilton walked and a Will Reid base hit to center loaded the bases.
A rare error by Hart, who was trying to quickly turn a double play on Brandon Banks’ grounder, allowed Rodgers to score Rock Hill’s first run.
With two outs and the bases still loaded, Josh Willaby singled to bring home two more and cut the lead to 8-3.
Willaby reached base three times and Reid was 2-for-3 and scored twice for Rock Hill. Rentz only gave up three hits and three runs, one earned, while striking out four and walking one in five innings to get the win. Justin Peddy had an RBI-base hit in the seventh for the Trojans, as did Jordan Kimbrell for Rock Hill to complete the scoring.
The region champs now have 13 region wins and have to finish a game they thought they had won 2-1 against Fort Mill last Friday.
The game, which was protested, will be replayed Monday at Northwestern from the start of the ninth inning tied at one.
The Trojans will be trying to complete a perfect region slate and Fort Mill’s playoff hopes could hang in the balance Monday night.
“We’re working towards next Thursday,” Northwestern coach Mitch Walters said, referring to the start of the Class AAAA playoffs.
“It’s going to be a normal day for us. We’re going to practice and then we’ll show up to play that one inning, but really we’re working more towards Thursday.”
|NW||3||3||1||0||1||1||1 - 10||12||4|
|RH||0||0||0||0||3||0||1 - 4||6||4|
Jake Rentz and Cam Norwood; Chandler Hancock, Zach Carter, and Will Reid. WP - Rentz. LP - Hancock. 2B - Tripp Barringer (NW). 3B - Norwood (NW). Leading hitters - Northwestern: Dupree Hart 2-4, RBI, 2 R, Josh Crump 1-2, 2 RBI, BB, R, Norwood 2-3, RBI, BB, 2 R, Barringer 3-3, 2B, RBI, R, Justin Peddy 1-1, RBI; Rock Hill: Josh Willaby 2 RBI, Reid 2-3, 2 R. Records - Northwestern: 22-2, 13-0 Region 3-AAAA; Rock Hill: 11-13, 6-8.