FORT MILL -- Fort Mill Post 43 felt good about returning to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. But the good feelings are gone after a hot-hitting Gaffney Post 109 swept the best-of-five series.
Wednesday night was more of the same as Gaffney clinched the series with a 13-1 win. Post 109 rapped 20 hits and the game was called after seven innings by the mercy rule. Gaffney outscored Fort Mill 43-5 in the three games.
Post 109, now 15-4 for the season, will move on to the second round of the American Legion playoffs. Fort Mill ends the year by losing six of its final seven contests to fall to 9-9.
Post 109 took an early 1-0 lead by taking advantage of a Fort Mill error. Michael Hughey singled with one out in the second inning. Hughey moved to second on Bobby Jackson's groundout. Bubba Wright followed with a sharp grounder down the third base line.
Post 43 third baseman David Flanagan dove to his right to smother the ball, robbing Wright of an extra base hit. Flanagan threw to first from his backside -- way too late to get Wright. Hughey alertly took off for third. Fort Mill first baseman Chris Honeycutt threw back across the diamond, past Flanagan, who was covering the bag.
Hughey trotted home with the first run of the game.
Fort Mill coach Erik Baddeley said several times this season that fielding errors and mental miscues were costing his team games.
Fort Mill threatened in the bottom of the second. It loaded the bases with one out, but failed to score.
Honeycutt singled, then Andrew Shapani and Shawn Thomas walked to fill the bases. Frank Mitlin came to the plate with a chance to do some damage. But on the third pitch Mitlin swung through an offering from Gaffney starter Jake Watson. Post 109 catcher Brian Parsons caught Honeycutt a little too far down the third base line. Parsons threw to third and the rundown resulted in the second out of the inning.
Two pitches later, Mitlin reached on a Gaffney error that would have scored Honeycutt to tie the game. Michael Baker grounded out to end the inning stranding all three base runners.
Fort Mill left 10 men on base in the game, going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Post 109 took advantage of most of its scoring opportunities. Gaffney was 9-for-16 (.563) with runners in scoring position.
Gaffney coach Jeff Osment was hoping his team could continue to hit the way it had in the first two games of the series. He got his wish in the fourth inning when Post 109 exploded for 10 runs on eight hits.
Post 109 sent 14 men to the plate to open up an 11-0 lead.
John Michaels singled with one out and Parsons followed with a walk. Hughey singled to load the bases. It was the first of six consecutive singles for Gaffney.
Jackson blooped a single over Honeycutt's head at first base to score Michaels. Wright singled in another run with a hit up the middle. Spencer Epps and Dylan Jolley followed with identical infield hits that forced shortstop Mitlin into the hole.
Lee Gertwick collected the big hit of the 10-run outburst with a solid two-run single to left center, scoring Wright and Epps. Every Gaffney player had at least two hits with the exception of Jolley. All but one starter scored a run.
Michaels, Parsons and Hughey had three hits each for Gaffney.
Fort Mill scored in the fifth inning. Flanagan hit a two-out double down the left field line. He scored when Alex Bebeau's grounder to first was mishandled for an error.
Gaffney's John Michaels homered to left field leading off the sixth. Parsons followed with a double and later scored on a double by Jackson.
Steven Simpson (1-1) took the loss for Fort Mill. He was pulled in the fourth-inning uprising. Kyle Hartley finished on the mound.
Watson went the distance for Post 109. He scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out four.
Fort Mill has been a pretty good bet to make it into the American Legion playoffs for years. Post 43's last appearance was in 2005, according to Legionnaire Doug Chapman, who kept the scorebook for Post 43 teams for more years than he can remember.
Baddeley said he is proud of his team.
"We had a good season. We're not happy with the way we finished, but we made the playoffs. I came here to bring Fort Mill back to what it was. We wanted to make the playoffs and be competitive," Baddeley said.
Baddeley, a former American Legion player himself, is a strong proponent of the league.
"These kids don't have to pay to play or to be seen by colleges. I'll help any one of them however I can," he said.
He'll have a huge turnover on his roster for next season. Only six of his 15 players will be eligible to return.
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