By John Turner
To no one’s surprise, Fort Mill welcomed the Byrnes Rebels in round two of the 5A Upper State Championship bracket Monday night at The Hive – again.
The Rebels have ended Fort Mill’s season in four of the last five years. Only the coronavirus cancelation of the season broke the streak. To make matters worse, the last two games were one run losses. The Yellow Jackets flipped the script and defeated the Rebels 8-7 Monday night in a heart stopping, nail biting, back and forth affair with neither team giving up or giving an inch.
The Rebels drew first blood in top of the first inning when Tiara Pearson ripped the ball up the middle for a hit. She stole second, moved to third on a grounder and then scored on a bunt to make it 1-0 Rebels.
Fort Mill took its first lead in the bottom of the second to make it 2-1 thanks to a leadoff double by Trinity Wall. Emma Tisdale followed that with a single and then an error on Byrnes gifted the Jackets their second run.
Back came the Rebels when Ellaine Yarrell got hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning. Two Fort Mill errors later and Byrnes retook the lead 3-2. The Jackets retaliated in the bottom half starting with a solo homer from pitcher Maddie Drerup. Trista Reid followed with a base hit and Tisdale then jacked a two-run homer way over the right center field wall making it 5-3 Fort Mill.
Byrnes got a run in the fourth and fifth innings making the score 5-5. It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth. Byrnes reliever Maddie Wiant got the first two outs when Drerup tomahawked a double and the rally was on. Reid slammed a ball back up the middle for a base hit and Wall was hit by a pitch.
Then five straight singles gave the Jackets an 8-5 lead.
But Byrnes never gave up. Pearson got a base hit, but tried to take second on the play where a heady Drerup ran her down and tagged her out. The Rebels then picked up two runs on three hits to cut the lead to 8-7. The Rebels had the tying run at second, when Drerup coaxed a ground ball to second to end the game.
“I’ve been calling them the cardiac kids for most of the year because we’ve been in a lot of one run situations, but tonight they stretched it out a little bit,” said an exhausted Fort Mill head coach Chuck Stegall said after the game.
Stegall was quick to praise the Rebels.
“They’re scrappers…a good ball team,” he said. “Never felt comfortable with Byrnes. It’s tough to score on them, but once you score, they…kept their composure, they came back and scored and had a chance.”
He also heaped praise on Drerup, who went 2-4 at the plate and pitched a complete game.
“Maddie turned just in time and just outran her (Pearson)…that’s guts, pure guts,” Stegall said.
The Yellow Jackets won’t play again until Friday night when they will host the winner of Dorman and Byrnes in the Upper State championship game. Fort Mill only needs to win once to be the Upper State champions. The Dorman/Byrnes winner would have to beat the Yellow Jackets twice. Game time is to be determined.
Fort Mill improved to 16-5 overall with the win Monday night.