FORT MILL – A.C. Flora completed a Class 3A baseball state championship series sweep and a perfect, 8-0 run through the 2012 playoffs on Wednesday with a 13-6 win over Upper State champ Fort Mill.
It was the third state title for the Falcons since 2001 under coach Andy Hallett, the first since 2007.
“Every (championship) team is different, but this one is pretty special because it started and ended the season at No. 1, and was able to bounced back from a rough patch there in the middle of the season when we lost five of six games coming out of spring break,” said Hallett.
“I’ve never had a team quite like this one. They accepted the challenge of the new bats without any arguments, and understood that they had to give themselves up and play small ball. To their credit, they did it all year and did it well. And to top it all off, this team has played better defense than any team I’ve ever coached. We fielded at .980 and for high school baseball that’s unbelievable.”
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The key players in the title-clincher win were juniors Jake Lewis and Matt Wallace.
Lewis went 3-for-3 with four RBIs to headline the ACF offensive attack. He got things going with a two-out, solo home run to left center field in the first inning and scorched a line drive to the center field fence for a bases-loaded, bases-cleaning double to highlight the Falcons’ seven-run eruption in the second inning to up the lead to 9-0. Lewis’ round tripper was his first of the season.
“It came at a great time,” said Lewis, whose older brother Conner Lewis played on the 2007 championship team. “I hit it real good and thought it was gone right away. It seemed to settle us down and get us going. It just feels great to contribute to this kind of win.”
Wallace got off to a shaky start, hitting the first two Yellow Jacket batters he faced with errant pitches and gave up four runs and five hits in the second.
But thing were dramatically different for the hard-throwing right-hander after the protracted delay. The season finale was a five-hour marathon – featuring a two-hour lightning delay – that ended at 11:59 p.m.
“Maybe (the delay) helped me forget about the nerves and just pitch,” said Wallace, who finished the season with a 9-0 record.
Indeed, Wallace dominated Fort Mill after the game resumed at 10:20 p.m. – retiring 13 of the 14 batters he faced with 10 strikeouts before being lifted after opening the seventh inning with a strikeout. In the end, Wallace allowed six hits and fanned 12 in his 6.1-inning stint.
Senior Daniel Walker finished it up.
Offensively, Flora finished with 10 hits and received 12 free passes – 10 walks and two hit batsmen – from five Fort Mill pitchers.
Schroder Carlton backed Lewis with three hits, including a RBI double. Freshman Donald Gillespie had the other big hit in the seven-run second – a two-run single.
Flora (25-7) started the season by winning 10 of its first 11 games before hitting the skids for a two-week period, and then responded with a 14-1 run from the end of the Forest Acres Classic.