Rock Hill was knocking on the door all season long with six one-run losses in Region 3-AAAA.
The Bearcats have kicked down that door in the playoffs with a pitching staff that has given up just one run in 21 innings. On Wednesday, Isaac Rodgers threw a two-hitter that gave the Bearcats a 3-1 win over No. 1-seed Mauldin.
The Bearcats now advance to the Upper State baseball finals.
“Our pitching has been unbelievable,” Rock Hill coach Dell Corley said. “We’ve got some guys stepping up in the lineup and we’re playing some great defense. I can’t ask for anymore.”
It was the second time Rodgers defeated the Mavericks in the playoffs; he threw a three-hit shutout in Rock Hill’s 5-0 win at Mauldin a week ago.
“Mauldin has a great program over there,” Corley said. “That makes me even more proud of my guys to be able to take two from a program with that tradition.”
On Wednesday, Rodgers came within one out of a no-hitter before Qualon Duckett dropped a soft liner into center field with two outs in the seventh. John McLendon followed with a line drive to left that scored the Mavericks’ only run.
“Nobody was saying anything (about the potential no-hitter),” Rodgers said. “Towards the end of the game I knew what was up. I started getting a little nervous and after those two outs I think I started letting it go a little too much and I left a changeup over the plate.”
The Bearcats will host Northwestern, the District 3 winner, starting Saturday for the Upper State Championship.
“I know our kids would like another shot (at Northwestern),” Corley said.
The Trojans won both of the regular season games by one run.
Rock Hill plated the first run of the game in the third inning on a gutsy call by Corley and flawless execution by his players. Leadoff hitter Caleb Hamilton singled to start the inning. A wild pitch followed by a passed ball allowed him to move to third base with no outs. After a strikeout, Chase Watts laid down a perfect squeeze bunt as Hamilton sprinted towards home. The only play the charging third baseman could make was at first and the Bearcats led 1-0.
“We’ve squeezed before but that’s probably only the third one of the year,” Corley said. “We felt confident to do it and I talked to my players in that situation. I asked my kid at third ‘what do you think?’ and he said ‘hey coach let’s go’ so we went ahead and put it on.”
The Bearcats got some insurance in the sixth. Edkins led off with a ground-rule double to right. Watts bunted him to third and Zach Carter drilled one off the drawn-in second baseman’s glove and into right-center to score Edkins. An out later, Bryon Foust lined a base hit into center to bring in Carter and make it 3-0. Edkins was 2 for 3 in the game and Watts had the two perfect bunts that were key. Rock Hill got to College of Charleston-bound pitcher Brandon Justice for seven hits and three runs to defeat him for the second time in six days. Rodgers struck out six for the Bearcats.
Isaac Rodgers. Brandon Justice. WP - Rodgers (6-3). LP - Justice. 2B - Cody Edkins (RH). Leading hitters: RH - Edkins 2-3, 2B, R. Chase Watts: squeeze bunt RBI, sac bunt. MA - Qualon Duckett 1-2, BB. Records: Rock Hill 17-9; Mauldin 19-7.