FORT MILL — Getting off to a hot start was key for the Nation Ford Falcons baseball team as the Falcons put a snowman on the scoreboard in the first inning and coasted to a 9-4 win over Spartanburg and move to the District I championship next Wednesday at home.
They will play one of three teams in Greenwood, Wade Hampton or Spartanburg again. The Falcons will have to lose twice to be eliminated from the playoffs.
Nation Ford scored eight runs in the first inning, giving stating senior pitcher Josh Corley all the room he would need.
“I am very pleased with how we swung the bats,” said Falcons head coach Mike Matkovich. “We have had big innings this year and I am glad we scored those runs early. This is history for us. We have never been this far. I am very pleased with how everyone has played.”
Nation Ford opened in 2007.
Corley pitched just three innings in getting the win, allowing just one run on five hits, while striking out one.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first, Nation Ford batted around in the bottom half of the inning. Leadoff hitter sophomore Brandon Fite doubled to start things and was followed by senior catcher Justin Johnson singling. Designated hitter Connor Green knocked in Fite with a single. Junior Dalton Helms then reached on a fielder’s choice driving in pinch runner Andrew Bruce.
Junior Cole Avery would then double knocking in Green and Helms and senior Will Visbeck would then single to knock in Avery, moving things back to the top of the lineup.
This time around Fite would single, knocking in Visbeck and Johnson would single again, knocking in Fite as the early route was on.
The Falcons scored eight of their runs on seven hits and a Spartanburg error in the first inning.
Corley went to work in the second and third innings, and despite having the Vikings threaten in the second inning, he was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam without giving up a run. Nearly the same thing happened to him in the third inning as Spartanburg starter David Dunlavey singled to right field, with two men on, but the Falcons’ Visbeck gunned out Vikings catcher Taylor Gung, throwing a bullet to home plate from right field to get the third out.
Nation Ford went up 9-0 in the third inning as Avery led off with and single and was driven in by Johnson, who singled later in the inning.
Spartanburg finally cracked the board in the fourth inning, scoring three runs on three hits.
After giving up two straight singles to start the inning, Corley was replaced by Erskine College signee Tyler Borland, who gave up a single in the inning. Two Falcons errors helped two of those runs to cross.
Nation Ford’s bats went silent after the third inning and the team didn’t pick up another hit. Only two Falcons reached base after the third as Spartanburg removed Dunlavey for a side-arm hurler in Dequan Campbell. He could have pitched well enough for the win had the Vikings not already been in a deep hole.
Campbell went three and two-thirds without allowing a hit and walking just two.
For the Falcons, Borland would be replaced after two innings allowing just the one hit, while striking out two and walking two. He was replaced by junior Chris Cash, who allowed one run on three hits for Nation Ford in two innings pitched.
Spartanburg would score one run in the top of the seventh on two hits, but had any potential rally stomped out when Dunlavey got picked off first for the last out of the game.
Nation Ford 9, Spartanburg 4
Spartanburg 000 300 1 – 4 11 2
Nation Ford 801 000 X – 9 10 3
David Dunlavey, Dequan Campbell (3) and Taylor Gung (S); Josh Corley, Tyler Borland (4), Chris Cash (6) and Justin Johnson (NF). W – Corley 5-1, L – Dunlavey. 2B – Brandon Fite (NF), Cole Avery (NF). LOB – Spartanburg 7, Nation Ford 5.
Leading hitters: Spartanburg – David Dunlavey 2-4 RBI, Taylor Gung 2-3, Zac Kollock 2-3, Conrad Hurst 2-2, Luke Renfrow 1-4 2 RBI. Nation Ford – Justin Johnson 3-4 2 RBI, Cole Avery 2-3 2B, 2 RBI, Brandon Fite 2-4 2B, RBI, Will Visbeck 2-3 RBI.
Records: Spartanburg 16-12, Nation Ford 20-6.