For the first time in a sport other than tennis, Nation Ford and Fort Mill met in the playoffs putting their fate in their rival’s hands.
And this time it was Fort Mill that closed the door on Nation Ford as the Jackets softball team beat the Falcons 3-1, knocking them out of the 4A state playoffs. Nation Ford had beaten Fort Mill twice earlier this season.
“We needed this,” said Fort Mill coach Chuck Stegall. “They have worked so hard all year and I have really pushed them. They really wanted this.”
Fort Mill was led by eighth-grade pitcher Bella Roy who went the distance allowing just three hits, while walking one and striking out five. She had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings.
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“She has battled hard all year long,” Stegall said.
Nation Ford coach Michael Kidd gave Fort Mill credit, saying his team didn’t get the job done.
“We haven’t hit well the last couple of week,” he said. “We didn’t have the aggression or discipline at the plate.”
Fort Mill came out swinging as leadoff hitter Missy Mavrogian singled to open the game and was driven in two batters later on an RBI triple from Danielle Gibson.
Third baseman Julia Rajcok then singled to knock in Gibson extending an early Jackets’ lead.
In the second inning, the Jackets had the first two batters reach on a Nation Ford error and a walk.
Nation Ford starter Brooke McCurry struggled from the opening pitch and things got worse for her as the early innings wore on. A fielder’s choice loaded the bases for Fort Mill as the Jackets went back to the top of the order.
Mavrogian’s sacrifice fly scored Fort Mill’s Joslyn Halcom, who reached on an error to lead off the inning. A walk to Taylor Rayborn loaded the bases again for the Jackets. Nation Ford was able to get out of the inning with the help of a force out at home and a fly out to shortstop without allowing another run.
Fort Mill led off the third inning with back-to-back singles from catcher Lauren Collie and outfielder Shelby Alexander. McCurry was able to shake off the singles and have her best inning of the game thus far, getting the next three Jackets hitters to hit infield pop-ups for outs.
The Falcons got their first base runner of the game in the bottom of the third inning as number nine hitter Autumn Mitchell reached on an error. However, Roy was able to get out of the inning striking out leadoff hitter Darby Trull.
Roy continued to dominate for Fort Mill as she faced almost all but one for the minimum against the Nation Ford through four innings.
Nation Ford got its first hit of the game in the bottom of the sixth on a double by Trull. Shortstop Chanel Turner then doubled in Trull giving the Falcons their only run of the game.
Fort Mill 3, Nation Ford 1
Bella Roy and Lauren Collie (FM); Brooke McCurry, Ashton Irvin (5) and Carolyn Thompson, Bree Tremblay (5) (NF). W – Bella Roy, L – Brooke McCurry. 2B – Darby Trull (NF), Chanel Turner (NF). 3B – Danielle Gibson (FM). LOB: Fort Mill 7, Nation Ford 3.
Leading hitters: Fort Mill – Missy Mavrogian 2-4 RBI; Danielle Gibson 2-4 3B, RBI; Julia Rajcok 1-4 RBI. Nation Ford – Darby Trull 1-3 2B; Chanel Turner 1-3 2B, RBI; Lexi Mitchell 1-3.
Records: Fort Mill 12-15, Nation Ford 12-12.