FORT MILL — Pitching has carried Nation Ford the majority of the season, but it hit a speed bump Monday night as rivals Fort Mill came across town to beat them 9-3 in the last Region III-AAAA game of the year.
The Jackets were coming off a 2-1 loss earlier in the day to Northwestern in the conclusion of a protested game.
Fort Mill head coach Brad Mercer said his team quickly refocused.
“It was the task at hand,” Mercer said. “It’s a big win for us. These kids grow up with each other and they wanted to win.”
For the past seven years since the rivalry has started between the two schools, neither team has been able to sweep the other.
“They played better than we did,” said Nation Ford head coach Mike Matkovich. “I am really proud of how the guys played this year.”
Both the Jackets and Falcons will open the state 4A playoffs Thursday. Brackets are expected to be available on Tuesday.
On the mound, Fort Mill pitched senior Collin Quinn, who allowed three runs on nine hits in seven innings pitched. He walked two and struck out two in the complete-game effort.
“Collin has pitched well this year and our bats came alive for him,” Mercer said.
Fort Mill opened scoring in the top of the first. Leadoff hitter Kevin Woods walked to open the game and was doubled in by second baseman Josh Turner three batters later.
The Falcons threatened in both the first and second innings, but the Jackets’ defense got them out of it.
Fort Mill senior Logan Pizzuto led the top of the third off with a walk before senior Jake Windham would get on with an infield single which resulted in a visit to the mound by Nation Ford personnel to talk to junior starter Cole Avery.
Jackets junior Jaden Savage singled, driving in Pizzuto. Windham scored as the Falcons tried to turn two when an errant throw pulled Nation Ford first baseman Riley Hilton off the bag.
Jackets junior Brett Netzer laced a double to left center to score Turner as Avery pulled for junior Chris Cash. Fort Mill sophomore Mason Jordan singled in Netzer before the inning ended with a 5-0 Jackets lead.
In the bottom of the third, the Falcons finally got on the board as senior Tyler Borland, who recently signed with Erskine College, doubled in sophomore Brandon Fite and senior Justin Johnson. Borland scored on a Fort Mill error to cut the lead to 5-3.
The Nation Ford pitching continued to struggle in the fourth as the first two hitters reached and Windham singled in junior catcher Justin Tepper.
Fort Mill kept added two more runs in the fifth inning with a sacrifice from sophomore Clay Helvey and an RBI double from Tepper.
Two Falcons errors in the sixth inning allowed Fort Mill to add another run. Woods reached on an error then Windham would single him in to close out the scoring for the Jackets.
Collin Quinn and Justin Tepper (FM), Cole Avery, Chris Cash (3), Tyler Borland (6) and Justin Johnson (NF). W – Quinn, L – Avery. 2B – Josh Turner (FM), Brett Netzer (FM), Justin Tepper (FM), Tyler Borland (NF).
LOB: Fort Mill 7, Nation Ford 7.
Leading hitters: Fort Mill – Jake Windham 3-4 2 RBI, Brett Netzer 2-4 2B, Mason Jordan 2-4 RBI, Josh Turner 1-4 2B. Nation Ford – Tyler Borland 2-4 2B 2 RBI, Brandon Fite 2-4, Justin Johnson 2-4.
Records: Fort Mill 14-10, 7-7 Region III-AAAA; Nation Ford 18-6, 10-4 Region III-AAAA.