For just the third time ever, the Fort Mill Post 43 American Legion baseball team has qualified for the state tournament.
Fort Mill swept Gaffney Post 109 3-0 in the best-of-five third-round series to get into the double elimination state tournament, which will feature the top four teams in the state. Post 43 (19-2) used a commanding performance from pitcher Madgiel Cotto, who threw a three-hitter, to clinch the series winning game with a 10-0 victory.
“Coming into this week, we knew we had our hands full with Gaffney,” said head coach Tom Skula. “They have been our rivals for at least the last four years. Under my tenure, we have never beaten them in a five-game series, and it felt great to finally get that monkey off our back. Our whole pitching staff again this week really did a good job of hitting their sports and changing speeds on the opposing team. Kyle Raynor really came into a pressure situation on Tuesday and got the job done.”
Fort Mill will now play Greer Post 115 to open the state tournament. The tournament will be held at Segra Park in Columbia, home of the Columbia Fireflies, a Single-A affiliate of the New York Mets.
Post 43 is ranked No. 3 in the state and is guaranteed a top four finish in the state. The top two teams in the state will move on to the Southeast Regionals in Tampa, a preliminary tournament before the American Legion World Series in Shelby, NC. Whoever wins the tournament in Tampa would qualify for the World Series.
“To be able to be in the final four for the first time in program history is really a testament to where this program has come,” Skula said. “We won the league and accomplished our second goal on the season by reaching the state tourney. Now we have to take care of business and fight for a state title. This team has really come together and gelled like no other team I have had before. Everyone has bought in and committed, and it makes it a joy for us as a staff. I am excited to see us compete.”
In game three against Gaffney, Post 43 managed just seven hits, but scored seven runs in the fifth inning to bat around and pull away from Post 109. The top of the order for Fort Mill really propelled them against Gaffney during the series. J. T. Marr went 2-3 with four RBI in game three and Daniel Gueldner was 2-3 with a double and two RBI as well in the game.
“Our one through four hitters entering game three were hitting .500 with no strikeouts,” Skula said. “To be able to have that at the top of our lineup has been incredible.”
The second game of the series was closer and more intense as Fort Mill escaped Gaffney with a 9-5 win. Connor Rasmussen went 3-5 with a triple and three RBI as the top four hitters for Post 43 collected seven of the teams 11 hits in the game. Isaac Beirne got the win on the mound going five innings, with Raynor coming in to get the save as Fort Mill led just 6-5 when he entered the game.
Game one in the series saw Post 43 come away with a 5-2 win as Jeff Maidhof nearly pitched a complete game allowing just five hits, while striking out nine and walking just one. Fort Mill was led by Cameron Greene, who went 2-3 at the plate with two doubles and two RBI.