The third time wasn’t the charm for the Rock Hill Bearcats baseball team, but the fourth one was.
After three losses to Fort Mill this season, the Bearcats hit the Yellow Jackets when it hurt the most, beating the visitors 5-2 to eliminate them from the Class AAAA Upper State baseball tournament.
“I was very confident our guys could bounce back,” said Bearcats’ coach Dell Corley, after Monday’s loss to Northwestern. “To see them fight back shows their grit. We still got a shot.”
Rock Hill will now travel to T.L. Hanna to play in an elimination game today at 7 p.m. before Friday’s Upper State championship game, which Northwestern has already booked a ticket for.
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Bearcats starter Isaac Rodgers led Rock Hill, going the distance while allowing two runs on six hits. Rodgers walked two and struck out 10 Fort Mill batters.
“We didn’t capitalize and got off to a slow start,” said Fort Mill coach Brad Mercer. “We didn’t execute at the plate. They got us one out of four times, I just hate it was this one.”
Fort Mill second baseman Matt Navarro singled in the first for the Jackets and got to second on a wild pitch from Rodgers, before being driven in by catcher Justin Tepper on a single to give Fort Mill an early 1-0 lead.
Rock Hill didn’t waste any time trying to strike back as leadoff hitter Chase Watts singled on the first pitch he saw from Jackets’ starter Nick Matchunis. But Matchunis’ best friend, a 6-4-3 double play, came right back as Cody Edkins grounded into the play to give the Bearcats two quick outs.
Rock Hill allowed the first Jackets hitter on in the second inning as they dropped a towering pop-up at third base. However, they got the lead runner with a force out at second, allowing designated-hitter Avery Carter to reach on a fielder’s choice. However, Rodgers battled back to get out of the inning without giving up a hit.
In the second, Bearcats shortstop Caleb Hamilton got on with a hustling infield single. Hamilton made it to second after a wild throw by Matchunis pulled Fort Mill’s second baseman off the bag, breaking up a double play. Rock Hill’s Bryon Foust beat out a throw after a force at third got Hamilton out, putting two Bearcats runners on. However, Matchunis got a strikeout and Jackson Massey gunned down Will Reid at home, who was trying to score from second on a single by catcher Brandon Banks.
In the bottom of the third, Watts got on with a walk and then stole second. Edkins also walked. Rock Hill’s Zach Carter then singled to right to tie the game, scoring Watts with one out.
Third baseman Will Reid then singled to give Rock Hill the lead, driving in Edkins.
Matchunis, who went 2 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits, was replaced by Garrett Leonard.
Rock Hill then pulled off a delayed steal as Carter scored for the Bearcats from third before Foust flew out to end the inning with a 3-1 lead.
Rodgers cruised through the fourth inning and struggled some in the fifth allowing a one out walk and a bloop single to Navarro. The Jackets’ Jaden Savage then singled to load the bases. Tepper then sacrificed in leadoff hitter Brett Netzer to close the gap, making it 3-2.
Rock Hill kept the momentum going its way in the fifth as Edkins walked to start the bottom of the inning and an error put runners on the corners for the Bearcats. Reid again capitalized on things for Rock Hill as he hit a two-run single, scoring Edkins and Hamilton.
In the top of the seventh, Clay Helvey singled to start the inning off for Fort Mill trying to create a rally. Navarro reached on a fielder’s choice allowing Helvey to make it to third. However, the Jackets were unable to plate a run, ending their season as Rodgers struck out the last two batters of the game.
Rock Hill 5, Fort Mill 2
Nick Matchunis, Garrett Leonard (3), Avery Carter (5) and Justin Tepper (FM), Isaac Rodgers and Brandon Banks (RH). W – Isaac Rodgers, L – Nick Matchunis. 2B – Brett Netzer (FM), Brandon Banks (RH). LOB: Fort Mill 8, Rock Hill 6.
Leading hitters: Fort Mill – Matt Navarro 2-4, Brett Netzer 1-3 2B, Justin Tepper 1-4 2 RBI, Jaden Savage 1-4, Clay Helvey 1-3. Rock Hill – Will Reid 2-3 3RBI, Bryon Foust 2-3, Brandon Banks 2-3 2B.
Records: Fort Mill 17-7, Rock Hill 18-10.