Northwestern battled back to erase a 5-0 deficit and beat Fort Mill, 6-5, Wednesday. The win gives the Trojans the Region 3-AAAA crown regardless of any results in Friday's regular-season finale.
Northwestern (15-7, 7-2) gain a No. 1 seed for next week's playoffs and the home field advantage that goes with the top seed. The Trojans open the playoffs on April 29. They will learn their opponent on Tuesday.
Fort Mill (12-12, 2-7) needed a win Wednesday and then have the planets align just right to qualify for the postseason. In the end the setback was the Jackets' eighth one-run loss of the year.
Northwestern had just one hit, a double to lead off the first inning, through five innings of play. Fort Mill's starting pitcher Andrew Tomasovich, a left-hander, kept the Trojans off balance until running out of gas in the sixth.
Heath Myers led off with a ground-rule double to right field. Chad Smith delivered an RBI-single and Justin Worley tagged a run-scoring double to make it a 5-2 game. Clay Bates drew a two-out walk and that ended the night for Tomasovich on the mound. The sophomore went 5 2-3 innings and gave up two runs off five hits and four walks. He also struck out five.
Jordan Griffin came on in relief to get Chris Hyatt on a fly out to end the inning.
The Trojans loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh with two walks and a single. Smith walked to force in the first run and Dupree Hart took his place as a pinch-runner.
Stephenson stepped in looking for a fastball. He got it and sent a two-run single to left field to tie the contest.
"For the seniors, this is our last shot," Stephenson said. "We wanted to go out, play hard and win the region."
Griffin, a senior headed to The Citadel next year, was removed in favor of Nathan Helvey. Northwestern's Zach Watts beat out a bunt single to reload the bases.
One out later, Helvey uncorked a wild pitch. Hart hustled down the base path from third base and slid across home plate head first with the game-winning run.
"We didn't give up. Tomasovich kept the ball away from us. He pitched a great game," Northwestern coach Mitch Walters said. "The best thing that happened for us was to get him out of the game. Our bats came alive in the sixth and seventh innings."
Bates (6-0) went the distance on the mound for Northwestern. He scattered seven hits, walked five and fanned 10. The Trojans defense helped his cause by turning a pair of double plays.
Fort Mill scored two runs in the fourth inning off a wild pitch. A bases-loaded walk forced in another run in the fifth and Kody Hartley blasted a two-run home run in the sixth. The Jackets left eight men on base, six in scoring position.
"Northwestern is a good swinging team so you never get too comfortable with a lead," Fort Mill coach Brad Mercer said. His Jackets won the first meeting 10-3.
FORT MILL 5
Andrew Tomasovich, Jordan Griffin (6), Nathan Helvey (7) and Cody Moody. Clay Bates and Chris Hyatt. W -- Bates (6-0). L -- Griffin. 2B -- Griffin (FM), Taylor Norris (N), Heath Myers (N), Justin Worley (N) . HR -- Kody Hartley (FM).
Leading hitters: Fort Mill -- Hartley 2-4, Griffin 2-4, Andrew Tomasovich 3-4. Northwestern -- Norris 2-4, Will Stephenson 2-2, Chad Smith 1-1.
Records: Fort Mill 12-12, 2-7 Region 3-AAAA; Northwestern 15-7, 7-2