The Nation Ford Falcons baseball team takes this first base line for the National Anthem Friday afternoon at Shipyard Park in Charleston, SC. The Falcons defeated defending 1A state champion McBee 1-0. (Photo courtesy of Keith Cooke.)

The baseball team at Nation Ford had to do some soul searching during this week. The Falcons, who are preseason ranked fifth in the state’s highest classification – 5A – went down to Blythewood for a scrimmage last Friday.

The Bengals, who were ranked #7 in the preseason, took care of the Falcons in a very easy fashion. Here the team was, after a great showing in the playoffs last year, feeling as though their time had come. They were going to be the new South Carolina state champions in 2019. After all, they played the defending state champions in 5A – Dorman – to three one-run games last season.

The Falcons were ready to take the coronation. This team has been talked about ever since they were in seventh grade, even though they were scattered amongst the town’s middle schools. All have been saying “wait until this class becomes seniors; that will be when the state championship will finally arrive in Fort Mill.”

The team is supremely talented. Senior shortstop Tyler Causey is headed to North Carolina to play, that is, if he doesn’t get drafted by the MLB first. Senior outfielder Bradley Bott is headed to North Carolina-Greensboro next year. Both are Division 1 baseball players. Both have had the weight of a championship on their shoulders.

Pitching ace Jeffery Maidhof, also a senior, is headed to Queens next year to play for Hall of Famer Jack “Blackjack” McDowell. And the talent continues its abundance. All but one of the Falcons’ senior starters is signed to play next season in college. And even he is close to committing.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon. The Falcons are playing in the Prep Baseball Report Shipyard Park Showdown. The field of teams that Nation Ford has to play is top notch. Their first game on Friday was against McBee, the defending 1A state champion who has won two out of the past three 1A state championships. Forget the classifications for a minute, the Panthers are good. In fact, they are better than good. It doesn’t matter what your school size is, if you can play, you can play baseball. The Panthers showed that against the Falcons on Friday afternoon.

The Panthers appeared to have struck first in the first inning when shortstop Connor Kirkley reached on an error to start the game. That was about all she wrote for the Panthers. Falcons pitcher Jeffery Maidhof proceeded to command the game, allowing just one more base runner in the game, a single to second baseman Graham Newsome in the second inning. Maidhof struck out nine batters, walked none, and allowed only one hit and two base runners.

Tar Heels signee Causey provided all that Maidhof needed, a two-out RBI double to plate Hudson Mankin, and that was all she wrote. Despite the Falcons sputtering offense – only two hits for the game – the mastery of Maidhof showed that the Falcons were ready for prime time. Beating a defending state champion was just what the doctor ordered after a lackluster scrimmage against Blythewood.

Justin Lehman got the Falcons’ other hit in the game, and despite the lack of offense, they fight to play another day.

The Falcons next play Stratford on Saturday at noon at Shipyard Park. Stratford played a tight game as well, beating Indian Land on Friday 2-1 in 11 innings. The Warriors are also tough this season, but came up just short today. Nation Ford is 1-0 in this young season. McBee drops to 0-1.

In other action at Shipyard Park in the Prep Baseball Report Shipyard Showdown, Byrnes beat McBee 6-3 in the nightcap. McBee drops to 0-2 on the young season. The standings in the tournament are as follows:

  1. Nation Ford 1-0 0 runs allowed
  2. Stratford 1-0 1 run allowed
  3. Byrnes 1-0 3 runs allowed
  4. Indian Land 0-1
  5. McBee 0-2

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Keith Cooke is a freelance writer who lives in Fort Mill and specializes in travel and sports writing. Keith previously wrote for eight years for, a national publication that covered a variety...

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