FORT MILL — Getting off to a hot start was key for the Nation Ford Falcons baseball team as they put a snowman on the scoreboard in the first inning and coasted to a 9-4 win over Spartanburg to advance to the District I championship next Wednesday at home.
Nation Ford will play one of three teams : Greenwood, Wade Hampton or Spartanburg again. The Falcons would have to lose twice to be eliminated from the playoffs.
Nation Ford scored eight runs in the first inning giving their stating senior pitcher, Josh Corley, all the room he would need in the game.
“I am very pleased with how we swung the bats,” said Falcons head coach Mike Matkovich. “We have had big innings this year and I am glad we scored those runs early. This is history for us. We have never been this far. I am very pleased with how everyone has played.”
Corley pitched three innings for the win, allowing one run on five hits, while striking out one.
Nation Ford batted around in the bottom half of the first inning to take an insurmountable lead.
Leadoff hitter sophomore Brandon Fite doubled to start things. Senior catcher Justin Johnson singled and designated hitter Connor Green knocked in Fite with a single. Junior Dalton Helms reached on a fielder’s choice, driving in pinch runner Andrew Bruce.
Junior Cole Avery doubled, knocking in Green and Helms. Senior Will Visbeck singled to score Avery, moving things back to the top of the lineup.
This time around Fite singled, knocking in Visbeck. Johnson hit his second single of the inning, again scoring Fite,
Nation Ford scored eight of its runs on seven hits and a Spartanburg error in the first inning.
Corley went to work in the second and third innings. He got out of a bases-loaded jam without giving up a run in the second.
Nearly the same thing happened to him in the third inning as Spartanburg starter David Dunlavey singled to right field, with two men on, but the Falcons’ Visbeck threw a bullet from right field to home plate to get Vikings’ catcher Taylor Gung for the third out.
Nation Ford went up 9-0 in the third inning as Avery led off with a single and scored on Johnson’s single.
Spartanburg scored in the fourth inning with three runs on three hits.
After giving up two straight singles to start the inning, Corley was replaced by Tyler Borland, who has signed with Erskine College. Borland gave up a single in the inning, but two Falcons’ errors helped for two of those runs to score.
Nation Ford’s bats would go silent after the third inning. The Falcons didn’t pick up another hit and only had two players reach base as Spartanburg removed Dunlavey for a side-arm hurler in Dequan Campbell.
For the Falcons, Borland was replaced after two innings allowing just the one hit, while striking out two and walking two. Junior Chris Cash followed Borland, allowing one run on three hits for Nation Ford over two innings.
Spartanburg scored a run in the top of the seventh on two hits, but had a potential rally stopped when Dunlavey got picked off first for the last out of the game.
Nation Ford 9, Spartanburg 4
Spartanburg 000 300 1 – 4 11 2
Nation Ford 801 000 X – 9 10 3
David Dunlavey, Dequan Campbell (3) and Taylor Gung (S); Josh Corley, Tyler Borland (4), Chris Cash (6) and Justin Johnson (NF). W – Corley 5-1, L – Dunlavey. 2B – Brandon Fite (NF), Cole Avery (NF). LOB – Spartanburg 7, Nation Ford 5.
Leading hitters: Spartanburg – David Dunlavey 2-4 RBI, Taylor Gung 2-3, Zac Kollock 2-3, Conrad Hurst 2-2, Luke Renfrow 1-4 2 RBI. Nation Ford – Justin Johnson 3-4 2 RBI, Cole Avery 2-3 2B, 2 RBI, Brandon Fite 2-4 2B, RBI, Will Visbeck 2-3 RBI.
Records: Spartanburg 16-12, Nation Ford 20-6.