Two familiar foes faced off in the finals of the 2017 Wheels Invitational tournament as the Northwestern Trojans and Fort Mill Yellow Jackets battled with the Trojans coming away with a 10-2 win giving them their fifth tournament title and first since 2012.
“We swung the bats well,” said Northwestern head coach Mitch Walters. “We played some good defense as well. We are trying to get ready for the playoffs.”
After winning two of three during the regular season against the Jackets, Fort Mill was looking for some revenge in trying to get one back from Northwestern in the tournament finals. With critical games as part of the Region 4-5A schedule coming up next week for both squads, the two teams tried not to look past the finals and too far into the future. Despite playing at Northwestern, Fort Mill was listed as the home team for the tournament finals based on the flip of a coin.
Northwestern came out swinging and scored three runs in the top of the first off of Jackets’ starter Griffin Reddeck with the help of three hits including a two-run triple from Will Hagood.
Fort Mill struck back in the bottom of the first scoring two runs on three hits including a two run single by Reddeck to help him and the Jackets get back into the game. Fort Mill’s Kobie MacKinnon improved to 5-5 on the day with a double in the bottom of the first after going 4-4 in the game against South Pointe in the Wheels semifinals.
After a torrid pace in the first inning, the second inning proved to be just the opposite as both Reddeck and Trojans’ starter Andrew Shipman settled down on the mound and faced the minimum in the inning. Northwestern added a run in the top of the third with the help of shortstop Will Gardiner, who got a sacrifice fly, scoring Joel Haney, who ran for Shipman.
Northwestern’s decent lead got even better in the top of the seventh when Fort Mill went to their bullpen, which struggled in giving up four runs on five hits, and added to the Trojans lead.
Fort Mill head coach Travis Collier said a week worth of baseball caught up with his team.
“It’s been a long few days,” Collier said. “I just think we got tired. Also we wanted to make sure we have some of our top guys ready for next week.”
Fort Mill stayed close up until the sixth inning when Northwestern put the game away scoring two runs on three hits, including a double by Hagood. Trojans’ catcher Davis Goodyear would also hit a single driving in Hagood to put the Jackets down by four with an inning and a half to play.
The middle of the lineup for Northwestern was key for their offense as hitters three through six combined for all three hits and runs in the first inning. The Trojans defense was also clutch for them as they got Fort Mill to ground into a double play in the fourth, as well as making defensive stops when they needed to throughout the game. Shipman settled down after the first inning hiccup and didn’t allow another Jackets hit until the fourth inning.
Shipman went the distance for the Trojans to secure the win. He gave up five hits and two runs, while allowing one walk and striking out one. Walters said he didn’t expect him to go that far, but was impressed with him in doing so.
“He threw well other than that first inning,” Walters said. “We were pleased with him.”
Northwestern has a three game series against rivals Rock Hill this week to finish the regular season, and Fort Mill has a three games series against their rivals in Nation Ford as well this week to finish their regular season. Both region series are crucial for playoff placement.
Northwestern 10, Fort Mill 2
Northwestern 3;0;1; 0;0;2; 4;-10;13;1
Fort Mill 2;0;0 ;0;0;0; 0;-2;5;0
Andrew Shipman and Davis Goodyear (NW); Griffin Reddeck, Zach McDonald (7), Jackson
Randall (7) and JT Marr, Hunter Helms (7) (FM). W- Shipman, L- Reddeck
2B - Kobie MacKinnon (FM), Will Hagood (NW), Will Gardner (NW); 3B - Will Hagood (NW)
LOB: Fort Mill 5, Northwestern 5
Northwestern 19-3, Fort Mill 15-6.
The Northwestern Trojans had five effective innings on the mound from Cameron Reeves, and big hits from Brandon Ashley and Jordan Starkes, to defeat three-time defending Wheels Invitational champion Faith Baptist from Georgia 7-3 Saturday in the first semifinal at Northwestern.
The victory set up a matchup with Fort Mill for the championship. The Trojans have won the tournament four times, and the Yellow Jackets once going into the championship game.
Reeves hit three batters and walked three more, but he only allowed two hits -- only one out of the infield -- and three runs while striking out four.
“He was effectively wild,” Northwestern coach Mitch Walters said. “They couldn't sit on any pitches. He hadn't thrown in 10 days and only one inning that game. So we wanted to get him out there and get him some innings."
He helped himself at the plate as well with two RBI. Starkes was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI.
"Jordan is hot at the right time of the year for us," Walters said.
Ashley hit the first pitch of the second inning over the left-field fence to put the Trojans on the scoreboard first. That led to a three-run inning. Second baseman Rob Hughes ranged to his left and made a nice spin-and-throw to first to end the Faith Baptist third with two runners stranded and only one scored in the frame. Freshman Dustin Noller relieved Reeves for the final two innings and only gave up one hit. Will Hagood had an RBI-double and Andrew Shipman an RBI-triple for Northwestern. Each time Faith Baptist scored, the Trojans answered with at least one run in the next half-inning.
Northwestern 7, Faith Baptist 3
Cameron Reeves, Dustin Noller. Daniel Cerda, Demoi Hodge. WP - Reeves. LP - Cerda. Leading hitters: NW - Jordan Starkes 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R, SB; Reeves 1-3, Sac fly, 2 RBI; Brandon Ashley 1-3, HR; Cody Boan 2-4, 2B, 2 R. FB - Edgar Castillo 1-2, Sac fly, 2 RBI. Records - Northwestern: 4-0; Faith Baptist: 2-2.
Fort Mill 11, South Pointe 2
Fort Mill scattered 15 hits in beating South Pointe 11-2 in the Wheels semifinals before taking on Northwestern in the finals. The game was held at South Pointe, but the Stallions had no home field advantage as Fort Mill use a four-run first inning to open the game up and never looked back.
The Jackets were led at the plate by Kobie MacKinnon, who went 4-4 in the game with a triple and four RBI. Bartow Keller, Hunter Helms, and Logan Miller each went 2-4 in the game with each of them getting RBIs. Ryan Cessna went four innings on the mound for Fort Mill allowing just four hits and striking out five to lead the defensive effort for the Jackets.
South Pointe managed just six hits in the game, one of which was a home run from DJ Hartline in the fifth inning.