Riverside’s players had rally caps plopped crooked on their heads. The baying Warriors jumped up and down and leaned on the dugout fence Thursday night, knowing that solid bat-on-ball contact would at least tie the score with Rock Hill, if not give them the lead.
But Bearcats releiver Caleb Hamilton duped Taye Martin into a high-bouncing grounder to second base where Will Reid, who pitched a very good first six innings before moving to the infield, snagged the ball, tagged the runner coming from first and threw out Martin to mute the Riverside dugout and win the game 3-2.
“That’s a heads-up play, getting the tag and throwing the guy out,” Rock Hill coach Dell Corley said. “Huge.”
The Bearcats advance in the District Three tournament to a Saturday home game against Greenville, which beat Blythewood 2-0. But if Corley’s bunch is to continue in the postseason and match – or surpass – last season’s Upper State championship appearance, they’ll have to clean up their play. Rock Hill had three base-running errors, two fielding errors and several poorly executed bunts … and still escaped with the win.
Perhaps the six days between games influenced Rock Hill’s sloppy play. The Bearcats hadn’t had a competitive game since last Friday – their longest such stretch since the season started – and even an intersquad scrimmage earlier in the week didn’t seem to be much help as far as keeping focus honed. Corley was also concerned with his team’s demeanor late in the game.
“That’s the first time in 16 or 17 ballgames I’ve seen them come out and not play to win, almost felt like it was trying to hang on and not lose,” he said. “And that’s not us. We’ve been a loose group.”
Reid, starting for the first time in 10 days, got off to a great start by throwing a six-pitch first inning and striking out the side in the second. He finished with eight strikeouts in six innings.
Offensively, the Bearcats inflicted their damage in the first two frames before sputtering the rest of the game. Leadoff batter Zach Carter reached on an error before scoring on Reid’s fielder’s choice to make it 1-0 after the first.
In the second, catcher Brandon Banks smacked a ground-rule double over the fence and into the red clay in left field, before Steven Buss’ lollipopped single into shallow left scored a run, and a Riverside error, one of three by the visitors, allowed another run home and a 3-0 Bearcat lead.
That was all the scoring the hosts mustered. And Riverside didn’t do any better after its two-run third inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases full of Warriors and it was 3-2 after Reid plunked Andrew Friedholm to bring in a run and Penn State signee Austin Riggins delivered a deep sac fly to the outfield to score another.
Rock Hill could have tacked on a few more runs to cushion its lead but had multiple base-runners thrown out, including two at third base in the fifth inning.
“We’ve got to do a better job of picking the baseball up and seeing the ball through,” Corley said. “And we’re gonna work on that in practice tomorrow. We can’t make those mistakes against Greenville.”
That set up a tense finale in the top of the seventh after Hamilton surrendered back-to-back hits. The senior reared back and put a 3-1 pitch down the middle and Martin missed it, bouncing the ball into a double play and his team into the loser’s bracket of the district tournament.
“I thought we’d get a fly ball out of Taye and at least be able to tie the game and send it to extra innings,” Riverside coach Travis Pittman said. “Hats off to Rock Hill, man, they made plays when they need to, and they hit. They hit the ball well tonight.”
Rock Hill 3, Riverside 2
WP- Will Reid; S- Caleb Hamilton; LP- Eric Mullinax.
Leading hitters: Rock Hill- Isaac Rodger 2-3; Steven Buss 1-3, RBI; Brandon Banks 1-2, 2B. Riverside- Cameron Shaw 2-2; Luke Stageberg 1-2, BB.
Records: Rock Hill 19-6; Riverside 12-10.