Maddie Drerup didn’t have one of her best performances in the opening game of the Class 5A state championship series. That wasn’t the case for Drerup and the Fort Mill softball team in Game 2.
The senior and USC Upstate signee tossed a one-hitter and hit a go-ahead grand slam Wednesday as the Yellow Jackets defeated Lexington 7-2.
With the win, Fort Mill forces a deciding game in the best-of-three series that it will be played at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Blythewood High School.
“Sometimes you have bad games and you have good games. But I wanted to come out tonight and show who I really am,” Drerup said. “Last night, I don’t feel like I pitched my best game at all. I trust in my team and we just wanted to prove we were deserving of this right here.”
Drerup gave up eight runs on 13 hits in Tuesday’s opening 8-0 loss to Lexington. But the Wildcats couldn’t get much against her in Game 2. She took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh until Livi Warren’s single with one out.
Drerup struck out 10 and walked five, three of them intentionally to Lexington catcher Sarah Gordon.
Fort Mill coach Chuck Stegall wasn’t going to pitch to Gordon, who doubled and homered twice in the opening game. Gordon has a school-record 19 homers this season and is signed to play at Louisville.
Gordon was intentionally walked twice with nobody on base and again with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth and Fort Mill up 4-0. Lexington got a run on the walk and then a Jessica Senn sacrifice fly, but had a runner picked off at third to end the threat.
“Sarah Gordon is someone who can change the game and the dynamic with one swing,” Stegall said. “I’m sorry, I love the kid but we just couldn’t let her bat.”
Lexington coach Laurie Epps wasn’t surprised by the strategy not to pitch to her star and said she didn’t understand why more teams didn’t do the same this year.
Lexington pitcher MacKenzie Mathis matched Drerup until the Yellow Jackets (18-6) broke out in the fifth. With two on and two outs, Ava Balsinger singled to load the bases. Drerup then homered to make it 4-0 and take some enthusiasm out of the jam-packed crowd at Lexington.
“I have had some good ones in the past but it would be hard for me to trade her for any of them,” Stegall said of Drerup. “She is a scrapper on defense, a scrapper on offense. … She is electrifying.”
Brynn Bartolini added an RBI single and Balsinger had a two-run homer in the sixth to make it 7-2.
The loss was Lexington’s third off the season and first home loss since last year’s playoff defeat to Summerville.
Epps, however, remains confident in her team and the ability to bounce back. The Wildcats (27-3) played in a deciding Game 3 in 2019 when they defeated Byrnes for the state championship. Some of the team’s seniors this year were on that championship squad.
“We haven’t lost a lot this season, but when we have we have come back and played pretty good softball,” Epps said. “I am confident in the girls I have in that dugout. We are going to be OK.”
WP: Maddie Drerup LP: Mackenzie Matthis. Hitters: FM: Bartolini 2-4 RBI; Balsinger 3-4 HR, 2 RBI; Drerup 1-3 HR, 4 RBI; Poteat 2-3. L: Warren 1-2.