BLYTHEWOOD – The Fort Mill baseball team came up short in their pursuit of the 2022 5A state championship Saturday falling to the Berkeley Stags 3-1 at Blythewood High School.
Fort Mill head coach Travis Collier, who was a member of Fort Mill baseball’s last state championship in 2002 as a player, said no matter what happened Saturday he was proud of his team.
“You can’t take away what these kids did right here,” Collier said. “Win or lose, I knew I was going to be proud of these kids. They have earned this. They did a lot of things the right way and they overcame a lot of adversity. I can’t say enough about this group. It is a special, special group.”
Fort Mill started the season 6-0 and then dropped five of their next seven before getting hot and making a run that ended up with them making a playoff run. They didn’t lose in the playoffs until game two of the state finals series. Fort Mill finished the season at 25-9 overall.
“They kept battling and they never stopped,” Collier said. “They revived baseball in Fort Mill. We are blessed and excited to be here. We are proud of this group.”
The match-up between Fort Mill and Berkeley had become hotly contested with each home team getting wins. Fort Mill won game one at home 6-2 on the back of a great pitching performance from Connor Rasmussen. The Jackets then hit the road to the unfriendly confines of Berkeley where a rough start filled with physical and mental errors led to a 12-7 loss for Fort Mill.
That brought both teams to a neutral site for game three at Blythewood High Saturday at noon.
Both teams threatened and got runners on base in the opening inning, but couldn’t get any of them across the plate.
Brent Laughter double to get thing started for Fort Mill in the second inning. Zach Jennings then singled get Laughter in and give the Jackets a 1-0 lead. Laughter went 1-3 in the game and Jennings went 2-3 with an RBI. Fort Mill managed just five hits in the game.
The Stags battled back in the bottom of the second and loaded the bases up with one out on back-to-back singles. Berkeley’s Jackson Proctor then double scoring two for them. Mason Sailsbury then singled in a run. After four hits and three runs, Fort Mill was finally able to get out of the inning, but trailed 3-1.
Getting the start for game three, Rasmussen regroup in the third inning and didn’t allow a base runner, but Fort Mill struggled to give him any run support. Beside the second inning where the Jackets plated their only run, Fort Mill didn’t get a hit until Jennings singled in the fifth inning. The next batter, Jackson McKinney bunted the ball and the throw pulled the first baseman off the base, but the tag was still applied. Collier pled his case but the call wasn’t over turned and it led to the second out of the inning, dampening a possible Fort Mill rally.
In the sixth inning, Fort Mill got a hit from Luke Garabedian, but a double play from the Stags again deflated the offense for the Jackets.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Stags’ Clark Hudson singled to get on and then an error by Fort Mill put two Berkeley base runners on with no outs. Rasmussen was pulled from the mound after five innings for Mathieu Curtis, the game two starter for the Jackets. The line on Rasmussen was seven hits and three runs in five and a third innings. He walked one and struck out four. Fort Mill was able to get out of the jam without allowing a run after the change on the mound.
The last chance for Fort Mill came up short in the top of the seventh inning as all three batters popped out to end the game.
“This was our goal all year long to make it to the last game,” Rasmussen said. “We just came up short. This senior class gave everything to this program. We left this program better than we found it. Bounces didn’t go our way. It just wasn’t our day today.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep