One of these evenings Rock Hill is going to knock in all of the runners its baseball team puts on base.
The Bearcats stranded 12 runners Thursday night in a 3-2, 12-inning loss to rival Northwestern. The host Trojans won their 42nd straight Region 3-AAAA contest by doing what they excel at doing, scrapping together enough plays in the crucial moments to pull out a victory.
“We just hung around, hung around there till the end,” said Northwestern coach Mitch Walters. “We always seem like we can get a runner on one way or another, bunt ‘em over and then get a key hit, a key sac fly. We’re happy we won; we feel we’re fortunate we won.”
The key hit Thursday night came from Northwestern center fielder Josh Crump’s bat. With a runner on third and no outs, the senior delivered a suitably deep fly ball to right to win a game that at times, seemed like it would never end.
Rock Hill stranded six runners in the first two innings, but took the lead in the second. Following an error that allowed Connor Edkins aboard, Bryon Foust’s single dropped just in front of Crump, and Caleb Hamilton was plunked by a pitch to load the bases. Cody Edkins drew a walk to score his brother and put the Bearcats up 1-0.
Still, both Rock Hill innings concluded with the bags full, a problem the first time the two teams played, also a narrow Northwestern win. Nothwestern claimed the region’s No. 1 seed and host, while Rock Hill finished fourth and will likely open the postseason at Mauldin.
“Could’ve broke the game wide open,” said Rock Hill coach Dell Corley. “We’ve got a young ball club. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m proud of these kids. We’ve made some huge strides this year and I think we’re gonna surprise some people.”
The visitors made it 2-0 in the third. Catcher Brandon Banks walked, before junior Isaac Rodgers doubled off the fence to put runners on second and third. Connor Edkins followed with an RBI single to score Banks’ courtesy runner.
Northwestern tied the game in the fifth, an inning from which the Bearcats should have emerged unscathed. Reid got two quick outs, a pop fly and a strikeout, before striking out Tripp Barringer to seemingly end the frame. But the ball wasn’t squeezed and the catcher then tossed an errant ball into right field. Barringer raced to third and Dupree Hart then walked, putting two men on. Drew Patrick answered the call, stroking a 2-2 pitch into the right-field corner to score both runners and tie the contest, 2-2.
The two teams battled on into the night, as fans groaned and turns at-bat whipsawed back and forth between the two sides. Junior Will Reid gave Rock Hill a quality start, throwing eight innings in which he allowed just three hits and two runs, while fanning six. Isaac Rodgers spelled him in the ninth and also pitched well, but errors ultimately bit the Bearcats late.
In the top of the 12th, Stuart Hodge, who pitched five shutout innings in relief for the Trojans, reached on a throwing error from the Bearcat third baseman. Hodges ended up on second and his courtesy runner, Brandon Ashley, then beat a tag at third on Will Carter’s fielder’s choice. Crump lined a shot into left field that ended the marathon contest as Ashley skipped home for the winning run.
WP- Stuart Hodge; LP- Isaac Rodgers; Taylor, Peddy, Hodge; Reid, Rodgers. Hitting- RH: Connor Edkins 1-4 RBI; Chase Watts 1-5, 2B; Will Reid 1-5, HBP. NW: Drew Patrick 1-5, 2 RBI 2B; Josh Crump 1-4, RBI sac fly.
Records: Northwestern 18-2, 14-0; Rock Hill 14-9, 8-6.