Fort Mill’s Trista Reid goes to make a tag during the Jackets game against Lexington. Photos by Rob Upton

Fort Mill coach Chuck Stegall was honest following his team’s 8-0 loss to Lexington in game one of the Class 5A softball state championship series.

His team just didn’t show up ready to play.

The Yellow Jackets, now 17-6, suffered a shut-out at the hands of the visiting Wildcats, which improved to 27-2, who used dominant performances in the circle and at the plate to secure a straightforward win.

Lexington’s Riley Ford pitched a one-hitter, striking out five batters and allowing just two walks in seven innings of action.

Sarah Gordon smacked two home runs, including a three-run bomb in the top of the sixth inning, to pace the Wildcats’ offense.

Meanwhile, Fort Mill’s fielding wasn’t up to par, and the batters were unable to put many of their chances in play.

“Sometimes it’s the way the ball bounces out here,” Stegall said. “You make a bad play, a fielding error, and everyone drops their head. … The tempo of the game tonight is nowhere near the tempo we usually have.”

Lexington coach Laurie Epps gave the game ball to Gordon, who secured her 18th homer of the year. She said her team came into game one with a loose, relaxed atmosphere that helped them play their best.

Lexington last won a state title in 2019, when many of the team’s current seniors were freshmen.

“They’re hungry right now,” said Epps. “The seniors want to get back to it and win another one.”

Lexington opened the scoring in the first inning when Jessica Senn’s RBI double brought home Gordon from second base.  

Sam Craig’s hit an RBI double of her own to score Madison Carwell in the second inning. The next frame saw Mackenzie Mathis pop a double to right-field that brought home Senn.

Sarah Gordon powered her first home run of the day in the fifth inning to deep right-center field. Mathis helped bring home Senn with another hit – Fort Mill was unable to make what could have been a routine play.

“We didn’t do what we need to do,” said Stegall. “It wasn’t a game we needed against a championship team like Lexington. If you lay a ball out, they’ll hit it. … We’ll regroup tonight. I told them to relax, think about what you did tonight and come back tomorrow with the will to win.”

Gordon extended the lead to 8-0 in the sixth inning when her three-run homer went the opposite way into center-left field.

Down 1-0 in the series, Fort Mill will now travel to play game two at Lexington High 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Stegall said his team has a chance if the players can pick themselves back up after a tough loss.

“We have to pick it up tomorrow night and see what happens,” he said. “If we don’t, the result could be the same as it was tonight.”

Fort Mill has so far defeated Riverside, Woodmont, Dorman, and Byrnes in the playoffs to reach the final series of the season.

Fort Mill dropped game one in the best of three series for the 5A state softball championship.