YORK -- Aaron Watrick didn't have to swing for what may be the most important RBI of his career.
Watrick worked a bases-loaded walk in the 12th inning on Tuesday to force in the winning run, sending York to a 3-2 win it had to have over Rock Hill. The Cougars twice extended the game with two-out rallies and broke out the magic again in the 12th, beating the Bearcats and opening a two-game lead in the Region 3-AAAA standings.
Northwestern's loss to Fort Mill gave York (11-6, 9-3 Region 3-AAAA) sole possession of first place, a one-game lead over the Trojans and kept the Bearcats (12-9, 7-5) in third. York can clinch the region title with a win at rival Clover on Friday no matter what Northwestern and Rock Hill do, since the Cougars swept the season series from each.
To win the title, Northwestern (10-11, 8-4) has to beat the Bearcats twice and hope York loses to the Blue Eagles and to Fort Mill.
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Pitcher David Hyatt, who relieved ace lefty Zac Fuesser in the 10th inning, led off the 12th with a walk against Seth Rainey, the third Bearcat pitcher of the night. Tyler Saboley check-swung and dribbled a roller down the line, which first baseman Stewart Curry fielded.
Curry turned to throw but nobody was covering the bag, giving Saboley a single and the Cougars runners at first and second with nobody out. Rock Hill intentionally walked Josh Vallejos to bring up Watrick.
Watrick worked a 3-1 count and called time to think about it. Knowing he didn't have to swing except on a perfect pitch, he watched Rainey deliver ball four outside.
Hyatt joyously trotted home while his teammates waited, the hardy souls who stuck around for the duration running to their vehicles to escape the frigid air. Watrick touched first base and joined the celebration, following a night in which he saved York's bacon in the seventh inning and won the game in the 12th.
The Bearcats scored in the first when York had a couple of miscues. A bases-loaded, no-out situation yielded just one run, but the 1-0 lead stood until the seventh.
Curry, who valiantly battled through a tough Cougars lineup, had struck out eight and allowed just five hits. Needing three outs to win and facing Watrick, Curry lost him on a 3-1 count.
He rebounded to strike out Josh Greene, and Bradley Victor followed with a groundout to short, moving Watrick to second. With Fuesser at the plate, Curry lost one pitch in the dirt that sent Watrick to third and then delivered York's salvation.
Another pitch sailed between Fuesser's jersey and Ross Lisee's mitt, giving Watrick plenty of time to hustle down the line and tie the game. Curry got the final out but departed soon after, Fuesser doing the same after walking five and striking out nine.
Rock Hill notched another run in the ninth when two walks and Josh Bowers' single loaded the bases with nobody out. Logan Cribb got in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, but the Bearcats couldn't get any more.
Cribb relieved Curry and got Greene to ground out. Victor then lofted a fly ball into no-man's-land for a bloop single and Fuesser walked.
Sensing another rally, Cribb quieted the crowd by striking out Shane Waldrop. Stephen Trotter gave York reason to cheer again when he slapped a single right back through the box to again tie the game.