COLUMBIA, S.C. – Florence Post 1 was one win away from securing a Southeast Regional berth and giving the program a chance at its fifth American Legion state championship since 2012.
But Fort Mill would have none of that.
Post 43 posted five runs in the third inning to pull away from coach Derick Urquhart’s team and win 9-2 in Thursday night’s state tournament semifinal round at Segra Park.
“Overall, I told them finishing with 34 wins (34-6) and finishing third in the state is something to be proud of,” Urquhart said. “Hopefully, they’ll look back years from now and realize it was a special year. If you don’t win it, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad year. I certainly thought we had a chance.
“But we had some good wins along the way,” he added. “We beat a very good Camden team last week. We had a good season and you can’t take away from a good season. But (Fort Mill) is a very good team over there.”
After winning one state crown in 2012 in Greenwood, and three others in Sumter (2014, ’16, ’17 – not to mention state runner-up finishes in ’13 and ’15), Post 1’s season ends in this round for the second consecutive year since Columbia became the host for the Final Four.
While Fort Mill prepares to face Greer in today’s final round of the state double-elimination bracket at 4 p.m. at Segra, all Florence can do is wonder what could have been.
“We didn’t get the hits,” Urquhart said. “We got a few more than Wednesday (a 3-1 loss to Greer), but we didn’t push another run across in the third. It’s disappointing. It’s not the way we thought this would end. Even if you go back to (Monday’s 4-3 win against Sumter), we didn’t play well against them.”
Hitting was not the only problem Urquhart thought his team had this week.
“All three games this week I thought some of our guys looked tired,” he said. “I don’t know what we did at nights after the game or during the day. I just thought some of our guys looked tired, and I don’t know why. We just did not play very well. I thought we’d give a little better effort, a little better showing. But that’s baseball.”
On Thursday, Fort Mill took advantage of one of Post 1’s youngest players: Robbie Jordan, a rising junior at Florence Christian School.
Fort Mill led 5-2 before Jordan was chased.
“They swung the bats,” Urquhart said. “They swung the bats, and we didn’t. They’d get up there and battled, put the ball in play and find the holes.”
Urquhart talked about the decision to start Jordan against Fort Mill.
“We scouted them Wednesday and watched Sumter use a right-hander with a good curveball,” Urquhart said of that game Fort Mill won 2-0. “So we thought Robbie could be that guy. So, I thought he was our best option.”
Fort Mill got on the board first in the opening frame, scoring on J.T. Marr’s RBI triple.
Although the Post 1 lineup attempted to give Jordan another chance in the third with an RBI single by Noah Carter and run-scoring double by Will Hardee for a 2-1 Florence advantage, Fort Mill chased Jordan by the end of the third.
Fort Mill’s Bradley Bott and Conner Rasmussen started the bottom of the third with singles, and Jordan then walked Marr to load the bases. After that, Jordan hit Cameron Greene with a pitch with the bases loaded, and the game was tied with no outs.
Daniel Gueldner followed with a two-run double, and Fort Mill extended its advantage to 6-2 with a sacrifice fly by Carson Jones and sacrifice bunt by Alan Stevens.
Jones’ sacrifice fly is what chased Jordan, and Noah Henderson took his place on the mound. Against Henderson, a run scored on an Alan Stevens sacrifice bunt to make it 6-2.
“(Jordan) did throw strikes,” Urquhart said “But we couldn’t stop that big inning. If we’d have kept that big inning down to one or two runs, we could have played things a little differently. But we gave up five runs.”
Florence went three up, three down in the top of the fourth, and Fort Mill made it 8-2 with an RBI double by Marr and run-scoring single by Greene.
And by then, Fort Mill had the momentum.
And the win.
"I think them and Greer will represent us well in the regionals,” Urquhart said of the next stage, taking place in Tampa, Fla. “I just wish we would have played better.”