BLYTHEWOOD – It was a storybook ending that couldn’t have been written any better.
The Fort Mill softball team won the 5A state championship Friday night at Blythewood High by beating Lexington 4-2 to send head coach Chuck Stegall into retirement with the state championship he has been chasing for two decades. Fort Mill finished the season at 19-6 overall.
For years, the Fort Mill softball program has been knocking on the door. Going from an upstart program to winning region titles. Then they started collecting district championships and finally, this year they won their first ever Upper State title and knocked the door down to win its first ever state softball championship.
Overcome with emotions, Stegall said this has been something the program has been striving to win for years.
“This is my last game, but it wasn’t about me, it was about them,” he said. “It is about the girls. It was about the days that they put in. It was about the tears. This is what we talked about. Yeah, I am emotional.”
History was going to be made Friday night in Blythewood, one way or another. Fort Mill just wanted to make sure to be on the right side of it. The Jackets were making their first appearance ever in the state championship series. Lexington had been here before and it was kind of old hat for them.
“We wanted to do things right,” Stegall said. “We wanted to have as much sportsmanship for the game and other teams. It just worked out in our favor. We just had to have some breaks. I have heard it said and I never really believed it, you take luck over talent sometimes. Couple of those times we were lucky. I got all the respect in the world for Lexington. It is hard to put into words what this game does to you.”
Game one saw Fort Mill take it on the chin losing 8-0. But more importantly they bounced back to win game two at Lexington 7-2. Blythewood High served as host for game three.
In game three, Fort Mill, the visiting team, started hot and took advantage of two Lexington errors. That put two runners on and then a sacrifice fly from pitcher Maddie Drerup and an RBI single by Trista Reid put the Jackets up 2-0 in the first inning.
“I love being the away team,” Drerup said. “If we can get up in the first inning, it gives me a lot of support.”
The fast start slowed for the Jackets in the second inning despite getting the first hitter on in the inning.
The third inning was a different story. Drerup led the inning off with a single and then Reid doubled her in to extend the Fort Mill lead. Reid came up clutch in the game going 3-3 with two RBI for the Jackets.
Lexington struck back in the bottom of the third inning. Drerup intentionally walked Sara Gordon and then hit a batter before a two run double tightened up the gap to make it 3-2.
Drerup regrouped in the next inning and was able to get back on track.
Both teams cruised for the most part for the next couple of innings. In the top of the sixth inning, Olivia Poteat got her second hit of the game with a single down the left field line. Drerup then singles for her second hit and second RBI of the game to extend the Jackets lead to 4-2. Poteat was another key hitter for Fort Mill as she went 2-3 in the game.
Drerup came back in the bottom of the sixth and seventh and kept her composure as she kept Lexington batters off balance. She pitched a complete game allowing three hits, two runs and striking out eight batters while walking four. She also went 2-3 at the plate with two RBI.
Fort Mill has had a lot of good softball teams in the past, but this one has stood out.
“We have a lot of team chemistry,” Drerup said. “There are eight of us that have been playing together since we were seven and eight-years-old. We never quit. We all play for each other. This team is special. I really have no words. I am on top of the world right now.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep