It would stand to reason that after the seasons the baseball teams in Rock Hill and Fort Mill had this year, the regular season title for American Legion ball would be decided by the teams from those towns. As expected, that is what it came down to Tuesday night at Rock Hill High.
Rock Hill Post 34 pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of five errors to defeat Fort Mill Post 43 13-6 and gained a No. 1 seed for the playoffs that begin next week. The teams were supposed to play a doubleheader but Fort Mill coach Tom Skula elected not to have his team play a second game. The first game decided the standings because Post 43 could not catch Post 34 even with a win in a second game.
Skula did not want to risk suffering an injury to one of his players with the playoffs looming. With the win on the field and the forfeit Rock Hill moves to 9-3 on the season and Fort Mill is 6-6. Both teams are likely to pick up another win by forfeit Thursday as well.
“Amazing group of guys,” Post 34 coach Mike Scott said. “Phenomenal players and good kids inside and out. I just feel like the chemistry is there now. There wasn’t just one guy that stood out. I think this team could go a long way.”
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Chase Watts of Rock Hill High was 3-for-4 with a sixth-inning grand slam that provided the final insurance runs.
Chase Williford led off the first inning with a walk and Watts followed with a bloop single to left. Trent Autry plated Williford with a line drive base hit to centerfield. Another line drive to right off the bat of Garrett Rast brought in Watts to make it 2-0 and the first four batters had reached base. With one out, Cody Edkins’ solid grounder got under the glove of shortstop Brett Netzer and two more runs scored to make it 4-0. Netzer had four of the five Post 43 errors. Edkins later scored on a fielder’s choice grounder for a 5-0 lead.
Rock Hill increased the lead in the third. Edkins reached again on an error and Chance Montgomery lined one to center. John Robbins’ double to left-center scored both runners for a 7-0 lead. An error by the third baseman on Cameron Smith’s grounder then allowed Robbins to come around for an 8-0 lead.
Post 43 did not go quietly as the first four batters of the fourth inning all reached and scored and the visitors plated another to cut into the lead. Netzer started it with a double over the centerfielder’s head and Justin Tepper then blasted one halfway up the hill over the left-field fence to make it 8-2. Mason Jordan reached on a shortstop error and Josh Jones blooped a single to left. An out later, Cole Avery’s liner to center scored Jordan. Hunter Helms then grounded one to Edkins at first. Edkins stepped on the bag for the out but threw wildly trying to get Jones at home, allowing Avery to come in as well to make it 8-5.
The guests inched closer in the sixth after two outs. Avery singled to left and Helms did the same to right. With Jacob Windham up, Helms sprinted for second but Rast threw instead behind Avery at third. He caught Avery off third, but the throw was off and that allowed Avery to score and cut the lead to 8-6.
Post 34 put it away with more help and five unearned runs in the bottom half, all with two outs. Montgomery singled and two more errors at short loaded the bases. Williford was hit by a pitch to score one and Watts followed with his high fly ball that kept carrying out to left for the grand slam.
Autry came in and struck out the side for Rock Hill in the seventh to seal it. Will Chitwood went 6 innings and allowed six runs, only three earned, to get the win. Montgomery reached base all four times on three singles and a hit-by-pitch. Autry was also 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Netzer was 2-for-3 with a walk for Fort Mill. Avery was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Helms reached base all three plate appearances.
Rock Hill 13, Fort Mill 6
Will Chitwood and Trent Autry. Josh Jones, Jacob Windham, and Jaden Savage. WP - Chitwood. LP - Jones. Leading hitters - RH: Watts 3-4, BB, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R; Autry 3-4, BB, RBI, R; Chance Montgomery 3-3, HBP, 2 R. FM: Brett Netzer 2-3, BB, 2B, R; Cole Avery 2-3, RBI, 2 R. Records - Rock Hill 9-3, Fort Mill 6-6.