FORT MILL — A season of hard work ended Wednesday evening because of one bad inning.
The Nation Ford Falcons were swept in the District I championship by Wade Hampton, losing 6-5 in game two and 3-1 in game one to get knocked out of the 4A state baseball playoffs.
“The one thing that kept us in games all year was pitching and it wasn’t there tonight,” said Nation Ford head coach Mike Matkovich. “When you can’t throw strikes, you can’t win the game. I am proud of them, however. We had a real good year.”
After struggling to hit in game one and forced into a second game for the District I championship, Nation Ford came out swinging and struck first scoring early.
Catcher Justin Johnson roped a double in the first inning and pinch runner Andrew Bruce was knocked in by senior Tyler Borland, who singled to right to give the Falcons an early lead.
In the bottom of the second, the Falcons got back-to-back walks to Clay Hunt and Cole Avery to start the inning.
Nation Ford got to Wade Hampton starter Brandon Gibbs, who was pulled after just four outs and didn’t make it through the second inning.
Second baseman Brandon Fite would drive in Hunt on a sac fly after a pitching change. And then Johnson would single in Avery. The hits kept coming for the Falcons, as designated hitter Connor Green singled in outfielder Will Visbeck to give Nation Ford a 4-0 lead.
Falcons ace Dalton Helms got the start for game two. Helms came into the game 8-0 on the season.
However, the Generals got to Helms in the third as a walk, a hits batsman and then back-to-back singles put Wade Hampton on the board. Another hit batter and then a single by Wade Hampton’s KJ Bryant made the score 4-3, all with no outs. A passed ball allowed the game to be tied at four and ended Helms night on the mound early. Helms went two innings allowing six runs on three hits.
Reliever Chris Cash would come into pitch and would get out of the inning, but not before the Generals would add two more runs.
Helms and the Falcons would get a run back in the bottom of the third after a lead-off single. He would eventually steal home to make it 6-5.
Senior pitcher Josh Corley would replace Cash on the mound in the fourth inning. Corley did well for the next four innings keeping Wade Hampton from scoring, but offensively Nation Ford struggled getting just two hits from the fourth inning on as Generals’ pitchers Barry Pyle and Tyler Thorton would shut them down.
In game one, both starters-the Falcons’ Cole Avery and the Generals’ Thornton-each allowed a hit, but was able to pitch their ways out of a jam in the first inning.
Wade Hampton threaten in the second inning again after Avery gave up a one-out single to Pyle. Avery would come back and strike the next two batters out to get out of the inning.
Nation Ford’s Visbeck led the bottom of the third with a single, but was thrown out stealing second. However, Johnson walked and pinch runner Mike Regan made it to third, first by stealing second when the throw sailed into centerfield and taking third on the error. But the extra base was short lived, as the batter struck out and killed a potential Falcons run.
A crack finally opened in the top of the fourth for Wade Hampton, as again it would get all the offense it needed in just one inning.
After a leadoff single, a walk and a Nation Ford error allowed the first run of the game to score. The Generals’ Jackson Strange would then single in Ridge Chapman, who walked earlier. A passed ball for the Falcons allowed Pyle to score as Wade Hampton went up 3-0.
Nation Ford got on the board in the fifth after a balk call on the Thorton allowed pinch hitter Hunter Hice to score after reaching on an error.
Despite scoring, the Falcons couldn’t muster any more runs as the Generals’ Thorton went the distance, striking out a dozen and walking four while allowing just three hits.
Wade Hampton 3, Nation Ford 1
Tyler Thorton and Joseph Strange (WH); Cole Avery, Chris Cash (4), Mike Regan and Justin Johnson (NF). W-Thorton, L-Avery. 2B-KJ Bryant (WH). LOB-Wade Hampton 6, Nation Ford 5.
Leading hitters: Wade Hampton – KJ Bryant 1-4 2B; Nation Ford – Justin Johnson 1-1, Clay Hunt 1-3.
Wade Hampton 6, Nation Ford 5
Brandon Gibbs, Barry Pyle (2), Tyler Thorton (7) and Joseph Strange (WH); Dalton Helms, Chris Cash (3), Josh Corley (4) and Justin Johnson (NF). W – Pyle, L – Helms, S – Thorton.
2B – Jackson Norell (WH), Justin Johnson (NF), Dalton Helms (NF). LOB: Wade Hampton 6, Nation Ford 5.
Leading hitters: Wade Hampton – Jackson Norell 3-4 2B, RBI, KJ Bryant 1-4 RBI, Barry Pyle 1-4 RBI. Nation Ford – Justin Johnson 3-4 2B RBI, Dalton Helms 2-4 2B.
Records: Wade Hampton 14-10, Nation Ford 20-8.