With a second-place finish and a home-field playoff spot for the winner, Fort Mill battled to a 10-1 win over rival Nation Ford Thursday night.
Both teams came into the game at 10-3 in Class-AAAA Region 3. Senior Dalton Helms got the start for the Falcons, and senior Avery Carter got the call for Fort Mill. Carter would go the distance for the Jackets, allowing just one run on three hits, while striking out one and walking four.
“We are starting to peak at the right time,” said Fort Mill head coach Brad Mercer. “We have had four good games in a row.”
Nation Ford wasted no time in spoiling the home team’s good vibes early as second baseman Connor Green led off with a double to left field. He was then driven in by a single from shortstop Clay Hunt for the Falcons’ lone run.
Helms got the first two outs in the bottom of the first before center fielder Jaden Savage singled to center and catcher Justin Tepper beat out an infield single. However, neither one of them could advance.
In the second, Fort Mill unloaded with six runs on four hits. First baseman Mason Jordan led the inning off with a walk. A key bunt by Carter moved him to second and a single by third baseman Chase Beaudry pushed Jordan to third.
A fielder’s choice by right fielder Clay Helvey loaded the bases for the top of the order as shortstop Brett Netzer singled in both Jordan and Beaudry. Second baseman Matt Navarro then singled in Helvey and a passed ball would allow Netzer to score to make it 4-1.
As if that wasn’t enough momentum for Fort Mill, Tepper smashed a two-run home run to left field.
Both Helms and Carter settled down after early rough innings. Helms struck out two of three batters in the third and Carter faced the minimum in the inning as well.
Carter retired nine straight batters until Helms reached on a walk in the fourth inning, but he would come right back to get out of the inning without allowing another base runner.
Helms and Hunt collided trying to make a play during a scary moment in the bottom of the fourth. Helms went down in a lump and appeared to be knocked out by Hunt’s shoulder. He was able to get up on his own, but was taken off the mound. However, he remained in the game to bat.
Helms went 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits, while striking out five and walking two.
Fort Mill took advantage of Josh Jones who came in for Helms, as Savage walked and Tepper would drive in Navarro, who was the last batter Helms faced.
Carter would get in some trouble in the sixth inning with two outs as third baseman Brandon Fire tripled, Hunt walked and Helms was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But the Fort Mill pitcher was able to get out of the inning without allowing a run on a snow-cone grab on a comebacker from first baseman Cole Avery.
Fort Mill padded its lead in the sixth with three runs as Helvey reached on an error, Netzer singled and Savage doubled them in. The Jackets scored their final run on the Falcons’ second error of the game.
Dalton Helms, Josh Jones (4) and Nick Hoffman (NF); Avery Carter and Justin Tepper (FM).
W – Carter, L – Helms. 2B – Connor Green (NF), Jaden Savage (FM). 3B – Brandon Fite (NF).
HR – Justin Tepper (FM). LOB: Nation Ford 6, Fort Mill 4. Leading hitters – Nation Ford: Connor Green 1-4 2B, Brandon Fite 1-3 3B; Fort Mill: Justin Tepper 3-4 HR 3 RBI, Jaden Savage 2-3 2B 2 RBI, Brett Netzer 2-4 2 RBI.
Records: Nation Ford 13-9, 10-4 Region III-AAAA; Fort Mill 14-5, 11-3 Region III-AAAA.