Senior pitcher Will Chitwood threw an imperfect no-hitter to help Northwestern to a 3-1 win over visiting Rock Hill Monday night in the Class AAAA Upper State baseball championship tournament.
Chitwood allowed no hits, walked three, struck out six, and got enough run support in the Trojans’ third win this year over the Bearcats. It was easily Chitwood’s best start of the year, according to Northwestern coach Mitch Walters.
“We thought he could throw like that all year,” said Northwestern’s coach. “He’d waited his time, did his work and then he had a little strain in his back mid-season and he’s been out about three weeks. He threw well. I didn’t even know it was a no-hitter; we’re counting first one to 21 outs.”
The loss shoves Rock Hill into an elimination game Tuesday at home against Fort Mill at 7 p.m. Northwestern also plays Tuesday, hosting T.L. Hanna at 6:30 p.m. in the winning half of the four-team Upper State bracket. Rock Hill coach Dell Corley was confident that his team will turn around and be ready to play Tuesday night against a Yellow Jacket team it lost to twice in the regular season by a combined three runs.
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“Chitwood, he did a great job on the mound,” said the Bearcats’ experienced first-year coach. “I think we came out playing a little tight initially and, you know, you’ve got to swing the bat, you’ve got to back your pitchers up. 3-1 ball game; we’ve got to get more run production than that.”
Northwestern got the run support it needed. After recent Winthrop commitment Garrett Rast knocked in Dupree Hart with an RBI single off the tip of his bat in the bottom of the first, Chitwood struck out the side in the top of the second. Monday night was his third outing since he strained a muscle in his back while pitching to the second batter of the game the last time Northwestern and Rock Hill played. Monday night he looked fully recovered.
“Tonight was good so I guess I’m back now,” he said, after running a couple of foul poles as part of his post-pitching recovery.
The Trojans stranded at least one runner every inning in the early going, but defense kept them in the lead. Shortstop Dupree Hart flashed some fine leather in the top of the third when he chased down Caleb Hamilton’s grounder and threw out the runner in one fluid move.
Rock Hill did get on the board, though, in the top of the fourth. Cody Edkins led off with a walk and moved to third on a sacrifice and a Northwestern error. Will Reid’s sacrifice fly scored Edkins to make it 1-1.
But Corley’s team couldn’t sustain offense, or find a timely hit. Chitwood sat down the side in order in the top of the fifth, and the Trojan bats came alive in the bottom half of that frame with two key insurance tallies. Hart led off the inning with a solo home run over the left field fence to make it 2-1, before Josh Crump doubled to the base of the wall in left-center. Several batters later, Ryan Hardee chopped a single into shallow right field and Crump scored to make it 3-1.
Rock Hill threatened in the bottom half of the inning. After Caleb Hamilton lined out, Edkins again drew a walk for the Bearcats. But Chase Watts’ ensuing line drive missile flew straight into Hart’s glove and he doubled off Edkins at first before the senior could scurry back to the bag.
Walters admitted afterward that he and his pitching coach Tim Hager nearly pulled Chitwood after he walked Edkins, but instead let him finish. The senior returned for the top of the seventh and got three fly balls to end the game, completing his first high school no-hitter.
“They barreled some balls up, but just hit them right to us,” said Chitwood. “That double-play ball could’ve easily been a hit in the sixth. Our defense was great behind me and made a lot of plays.”
RH 0;0;0;1;0;0;0- 1;0;1
NW 1;0;0;0;2;0;X- 3;8;1
WP- Will Chitwood; LP- Will Reid. RH- Cody Edkins 0-1, 2 BB. NW- Dupree Hart 1-3, HR, RBI; Josh Crump 1-2, 2B; Garrett Rast 2-2, RBI, BB.
Records: Rock Hill 17-10; Northwestern 22-3.