The Nation Ford Falcons baseball team has won in all kinds of fashion during their current seven-game winning streak. Dominant pitching and timely offense has propelled them to the position where they are now in second place in Region 3-5A and clinching a state playoff berth in the process.
Wednesday’s game at Nation Ford was a game in which the Falcons had to play catch up all game before Rock Hill’s second baseman Jordan Thurmond made the game’s first error in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. That error, on a Magdiel Cotto chopping ground ball, allowed pinch runner Brandon Stancil to score the winning run as the Falcons beat the Bearcats 5-4 in the second game of the series between the teams.
Nation Ford goes for the sweep of the series Thursday night at Rock Hill High School at 7:15 pm. The JV teams from both schools play before that game at 4:45 pm at Rock Hill.
The game started off like the Falcons would be in jeopardy. Rock Hill scored two quick runs in the first inning when Bearcats’ third baseman Blake Sherrill singled to Falcons’ right fielder Nathan Mahaffey, scoring courtesy runner Ryan Deal and Thurmond to grab the lead 2-0. In the second inning, the Bearcats extended the lead to 3-0 when shortstop Luke Banks grounded out to Falcons’ shortstop Tyler Causey to score first baseman Nick Petit. It looked like the Bearcats might have their way with starting pitcher Cotto, scoring three times.
The Falcons began playing catch up in the bottom of the second inning when second baseman Xavier Cumbee beat out an infield single to score first baseman Jeffery Maidhof, who reached on a dropped third strike to start the inning. After a walk to third baseman Steven Johnson, Causey delivered a double just inside the left field corner, scoring courtesy runner Justin Kelso and Cumbee to tie the game at 3.
The teams traded punches in the fifth inning when Bearcats’ pitcher Willie Lumpkin executed a perfect squeeze play to score right fielder Alex English to give Rock Hill the lead, 4-3. The call was questionable as it appeared that Falcons’ catcher Justin Lehman tagged English on the play, but the umpire called him safe. In the bottom of the fifth, Lehman doubled to English, and three batters later, Mahaffey hit a ground rule double to score Stancil, who was running again for Lehman.
The next play, designated hitter Noah Petty hit what appeared to be an infield single and Mahaffey scored all the way from second. However, the base umpire called Petty out, and it looked like luck was not on the Falcons’ side tonight. Mahaffey would have been the go ahead run, but the inning ended with the score knotted at 4.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Lehman opened the inning with a single to right field. Stancil again ran for Lehman. Maidhof then laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Stancil to second with one out. The next play was the game-winner with Cotto’s ground ball to Thurmond. Thurmond under threw the ball, getting away from Petit, and Stancil scored the game-winner.
Petty (1-1) got the win for the Falcons, pitching a perfect top of the seventh inning. Cotto, the South Carolina commit, didn’t get a decision, but was effective for Nation Ford, going six innings, scattering six hits, allowing four runs and striking out eight. Lumpkin went the distance for Rock Hill, taking the loss.
As mentioned before, the teams meet again on Thursday night at Rock Hill High School at 7:15 pm. Nation Ford improves to 12-5 on the season, including 6-2 in Region 3-5A. Rock Hill drops to 12-7 and 1-7 in Region play.
Nation Ford will make the state tournament this season by virtue of Clover’s loss to Fort Mill on Wednesday night, 2-0. Nation Ford holds the tie breakers over Clover and Rock Hill this year, virtually guaranteeing them the state playoff bid.
Rock Hill cannot catch the Falcons in the standings, and the best Clover can do is tie Nation Ford, but with the tiebreaker, the Falcons will get the bid.
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