You could have filled an entire highlight-reel show Tuesday night at Rock Hill.
Nation Ford and the Bearcats took turns making impressive defensive plays, but the Falcons got the one big hit early that was unreachable and earned another Region 3-AAAA win, 2-1, over the Bearcats.
It is Nation Ford’s sixth straight region win and pulls it even with Rock Hill at 6-3.
Clay Hunt got his first start and pitched four innings for the Falcons, while allowing only one run on four hits and striking out seven. Rock Hill stranded at least one runner in every inning, and nine total. Seven of those were in scoring position. Hunt got a strikeout to end both the first and third innings with runners on second and third, and got groundouts to shortstop to end the second and fourth with a runner in scoring position each time.
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“I think (Hunt) was a little nervous coming out,” Nation Ford coach Mike Matkovich said. “He wasn’t throwing quite as hard as I know he can. It took him a couple innings to warm up and he started pumping it up there after that.”
Nation Ford’s Dalton Helms got Hunt and the Falcons all the scoring they needed in the top of the first. His two-out, two-run homer that stuck in the soggy hill just below the flagpole beyond left field put the Falcons up 2-0. Connor Green had reached on a leadoff walk. He reached safely in all four at-bats.
The Bearcats answered in the home half with their own two-out hit. Zach Carter delivered for Rock Hill with a base hit to left that scored Caleb Hamilton to make it 2-1. That’s where the scoring would end and the defense would begin.
Hamilton saved at least one run in the top of the third with runners on second and third. He had a diving catch of Helms’ soft looper at shortstop and long throw to get Jacob Wright at first.
Third baseman Conner Edkins made a great diving catch in foul territory to retire Justin Borland and end the visitors’ fourth with a runner on second.
Isaac Rodgers got out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation in the top of the fifth. He got Helms to ground to third and the throw went to home for one out. He then struck out Wright and got Cole Avery to ground to short to end the inning.
Green made two tough plays at second for Nation Ford in the fifth. With a runner on first, he dove to his left on Carter’s grounder and threw him out. He then fielded Will Reid’s bouncer behind second while sliding on one knee and throwing to first all in one motion to end the inning.
“Without those two plays that’s a totally different game,” Matkovich said. “I didn’t know he was really capable of that but he looked like he does it every day.”
Rodgers was the hard-luck loser as he went six for Rock Hill and gave up two runs on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Hunt got the win for Nation Ford. Avery only allowed one hit in two innings and Helms closed it out in the seventh. Avery was also 2-for-3 at the plate.
Nation Ford 2 Rock Hill 1
Clay Hunt, Cole Avery, and Dalton Helms. Isaac Rodgers and Zach Carter. WP - Hunt. LP - Rodgers. 2B - Avery (NF); Rodgers (RH). HR - Helms (NF). Leading hitters: NF - Connor Green 2-2, 2 BB, R; Avery 2-3, 2B. RH - Cody Edkins 2-4. Records: Nation Ford 8-7, 7-3 Region 3-AAAA; Rock Hill 10-5, 6-3.