Facing a must-win situation to stay alive in the 4A playoffs, the Nation Ford Falcons got a clutch two-out double by junior third baseman Brandon Fite to score senior Connor Green and give the Falcons a 5-4 win over the Easley Green Wave in extra innings.
“That was a big hit by Brandon,” said Falcons’ head coach Mike Matkovich. “Tonight, our older guys came through.”
Nation Ford now travels to TL Hanna Wednesday and must sweep a double header to advance to the Upper State tournament.
Nation Ford struggled in the bottom half of its line-up as hitters five through nine managed just one hit. However, the top four hitters got six of the seven hits for the Falcons.
Falcons’ senior Chris Cash got the start and allowed a single to open the game, but Nation Ford got an inning ending 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.
Easley starter Parker Creasman showed good control early to start the game for the Green Wave. And the Green Wave rode him nearly the entire game as he pitched into the ninth inning, allowing four runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out eight. He would take the loss for Easley.
In the second inning, Jordan Pankake singled to open things for the Green Wave. That was followed by a double from catcher Casey Woody. Cash would get the next two outs with pop-ups, but then centerfielder Mason Stewart would drive a three-run home run over the left field wall to put Easley up 3-0.
Cash started to struggle after the home run allowing walks to two of the next three batters, with an error loading the bases for Easley. However, the help of a force out at second got Nation Ford out of the inning.
Nation Ford got some offense started in the bottom of the inning as first baseman Cole Avery led off with a double. But the Falcons would leave Avery on second as Easley would get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Cash battled back in the third inning as he would face the minimum number of hitters.
The Falcons again started well in the third inning with back-to-back singles from leadoff hitter Green and Fite. Green would get to third on a sacrifice from Clay Hunt. Fourth-hole hitter Dalton Helms would then double in both Green and Fite to put Nation Ford on the board. A sacrifice fly by Avery would score Helms to tie the game at 3-3.
Easley threatened in the fifth as leadoff hitter Jamison Spitzmiller singled to open the inning, before moving to third. He would score on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Hood giving the Green Wave the lead.
After facing one batter in the sixth which resulted in a walk, Cash was taken out of the game for Josh Jones. Cash went five innings allowing four runs on four hits, while walking three.
With a man on first, Jones plunked the first batter he faced. A sacrifice bunt moved the two Easley players to second and third as the Green Wave again threaten to blow the game open.
However, again, Nation Ford was able to rely on their defense and not allow a run keeping the game close. Jones would get credit for the win going four innings and allowing just three hits.
In the bottom of the seventh, needing to score to tie the game, Nation Ford got two out singles from Green and Fite. An error by Easley would allow Green to score to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Nation Ford 5, Easley 4
Parker Creasman, Bailey Littleton(9) and Casey Woody (E); Chris Cash, Josh Jones (6) and Nick Hoffman (NF). W – Josh Jones, L – Parker Creasman. 2B – Casey Woody (E), Cole Avery (NF), Dalton Helms (NF), Jamison Spitzmiller (E), Brandon Fite (NF). HR – Mason Stewart (E). LOB: Easley 8, Nation Ford 7.
Leading hitters: Easley – Mason Stewart 1-4 three-run home run; Jamison Spitzmiller 3-5 2B; Casey Woody 2-3 2B. Nation Ford – Brandon Fite 3-5 2B RBI; Dalton Helms 1-4 2B 2 RBI; Connor Green 2-5; Cole Avery 1-4 2B.
Records: Easley 13-8, Nation Ford 16-9.