For the first time, the Wheels Invitational will have a new champion.
Rock Hill hopes to be it.
"It feels real good," said sophomore Jesse Brewer, minutes after the Bearcats completed a doubleheader sweep on Friday on the tournament's second day. "And to be undefeated, too ... it feels real good.
"I think we're going to win it."
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Brewer tossed a complete game as Rock Hill beat Bayside (Va.) 5-1 in Game 1 and the Bearcats (9-6) trashed Great Falls 14-4 in five innings in the nightcap. Rock Hill returned to the Wheels semifinals after a one-year absence and are looking to erase the past two years' worth of disappointment.
In 2006, the Bearcats lost to archrival Northwestern in the championship game. Last year, Rock Hill didn't make it to the semis.
This year, Rock Hill's in along with York, Chaminade Madonna Prep (Fla.) and Upper St. Clair (Pa.) The other eight teams will play a consolation game today and be done.
The Bearcats are hoping to at least keep the trophy close by, if not walk by it every day for the next year.
"We want to keep it in York County," coach Eddie Hill said. "But we also want to use this as a springboard into our second half of the season. I'm just so happy for these kids ... it was an opportunity for them to step up and play."
After Brewer (2-4) baffled Bayside, the Bearcats welcomed the Red Devils to the field and immediately jumped in front 4-0. Great Falls (5-9) contributed to the cause with a few too many wild pitches and what would become six errors, but still managed to give Rock Hill starter Seth Rainey (2-0) a run for his money.
Rainey was one out away from a 14-1 victory when he lost Matt Blakley on a 3-1 pitch. Gaither Bumgardner stung the next pitch into the gap to bring up Kyle Heffner, who had a rough mound outing.
Heffner soothed his pride by belting a monstrous three-run homer over the left-field fence, leaving Great Falls one run away from prolonging the game and perhaps knocking Rainey out of the game. Stiles Brunson reached on an error but Rainey bore down, coaxed Phillip Greenleaf's popup and finally smiled.
"He threw a good game," Hill said, "just ran into some trouble at the end. But we gave him plenty of support."
Rock Hill never stayed still on the basepaths, swiping eight bases and taking advantage of the Red Devils' wildness from the bump. Aided by extra-base knocks from Michael Hill, Logan Cribb and Stewart Curry, the Bearcats relentlessly pressed Great Falls and came through pool play undefeated.
"It's mostly just been a relief," Hill said. "We didn't know how we were going to come into this tournament after a few messy games. But it's good to see us play like we're capable of."
• Wheels results, schedule • 6D