FORT MILL — The Fort Mill Yellow Jackets will play for a berth in the Upper State baseball tournament after winning their first two playoff games to get to the District II championship.
Fort Mill beat No. 1 seed Blythewood 5-0 and Gaffney 3-2 to clinch a spot in the district title game, where the team will have to lose twice to be eliminated. Play begins 5 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Mill.
Against Blythewood, the Jackets were led by Nick Matchunis on the mound. He went 6 1/3 innings, striking out eight while allowing just three hits.
Fort Mill scored two in the first inning and added three in the fifth. The Jackets were aided by six Blythewood errors.
Seniors Jaden Savage and Justin Tepper both went 2-4, including a triple for Tepper.
The Jackets made quick work of the Gaffney Indians, winning 3-2 in just 76 minutes to open the 4A state playoffs. Fort Mill senior pitcher Avery Carter got the start for the Jackets and despite some early struggles, he went the distance, allowing four hits and just two runs while striking out three and walking one.
Jackets coach Brad Mercer said his team likes to work fast if given the opportunity.
“We got breaks when we needed to and Avery kept things around the plate,” Mercer said. “We knew Gaffney was a good team. They put the ball in play. But this team was aggressive at the plate.”
In the top of the sixth, Gaffney tied the game as second baseman Jackson Propst was hit by a pitch before pinch hitter Joseph Mabry doubled him in to tie the game at 2-2. Fort Mill got the run back in the bottom of the sixth inning as Savage walked and later scored on a double by outfielder Jackson Massey, who was thrown out trying to reach third.
The teams traded runs in the first inning as Gaffney’s leadoff hitter reached on an error. From there first baseman Luke Lancaster singled and Chris Clary, who led off, was driven in on a sacrifice by designated hitter Tucker Byars.
After the shaky start, Carter came back to retire five straight before allowing a single in the third inning. Both pitchers worked rapidly and threw strikes that allowed batters to make contact, but not get on base.
In the fourth, Tepper doubled to start off the bottom half of the inning. Mercer sent in Grant Fry to pinch run for Tepper and first baseman Mason Jordan singled in Fry to break the 1-1 tie and give Fort Mill their first lead of the night.
Carter stayed solid for the Jackets through four innings, but got into some trouble in the fifth with one out as Indians third baseman Zach Wood singled and Farley walked to put two on for Gaffney. But after a conference on the mound, Carter got the next two batters out to get out of the jam.