Charles Dickens said it best. For Fort Mill softball, it was both the best of times and the worst of times.
After handing the Byrnes Rebels just their second loss on the year a game earlier by winning 2-0, Fort Mill (27-6) lost 14-1 to them in the 5A Upper State championship game.
“We had everything going our way,” said Fort Mill head coach Chuck Stegall. “In the first game, we did what we had to do.”
Coming into the game, Fort Mill needed to sweep Byrnes to make it to the 5A state championship series against Lower State winner White Knoll. The Jackets started off on the right foot despite an hour and 15 minute rain delay that all but stopped the Jackets' momentum.
In the first game, Jackets pitcher Bella Roy went the distance, going seven innings and allowing just three hits while walking four and striking out eight. In the top of the fourth, Fort Mill scored its only two runs of the game with back to back hits by Brynn Bartolini and Marissa McDermott to open the inning. Three batters later, Reagan Smith singled in both Bartolini and McDermott to give Fort Mill the slim lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Fort Mill had two outs with two runners on base for Byrnes, when the umps delayed the game.
Coming out of the delay, Roy struck out the next Byrnes hitter to keep Fort Mill’s adrenaline up. Byrnes would only get on base two more times for the remainder of game one, as Roy closed things out, getting stronger as the game wore on.
Stegall stayed with the hot hand and had Roy to start game two, but Byrnes’ lineup, having seen her multiple times through the order, started to catch up to the Winthrop University-bound ace. Fort Mill played the role of the home team in game two based on a coin flip and Byrnes took care of business early.
The Rebels scored three runs on three hits in the top of the first inning of the second game with the aid of a inside-the-park home run that shifted the momentum in Byrnes' favor.
Roy came out in the second inning and gave up five hits and five early runs as the Jackets' defense was plagued with mental mistakes, letting balls drop in the infield without communicating and other issues which played into Byrnes' hand.
“I just think they got to her pitches,” Stegall said. “They got some hits and it just got in our heads.”
Roy was replaced by Payton Lemire with two outs in the second inning and Lemire got out of the inning, but the Rebels got to her in the third inning, scoring six runs on six hits.
Offensively, Fort Mill got just three hits in the second game. Catcher Lauren Collie got a hit to open the fourth inning and pinch runner Trinity Wall was driven in three batters later by pinch hitter Emily Harris.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM