The Ardrey Kell baseball team never won a Southwestern 4A tournament championship in the program’s first seven seasons.
With a 2-1 win over Providence High on Friday night, the Knights won the inaugural SoMeck 8 tournament title.
Ardrey Kell (25-2) also won the SoMeck 8 regular season title this year, the program’s third straight regular season conference championship.
“I think our confidence is at an all-time high,” Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell said. “We’re playing the best we’ve played all year at this point and that’s what any coach wants, for sure.”
The Knights, who were the home team at Providence High because of conference seeding, had to overcome a one-run deficit and strong Providence pitching and defense to get the win.
Providence (22-4) starting pitcher Matt Ball didn’t allow a hit and struck out seven in his three and two-thirds innings of work. Ardrey Kell’s three base runners in that span reached on walks.
Tommy Dejuneas only allowed two hits in relief for the Panthers.
“Matt Ball is an outstanding pitcher and so is Tommy Dejuneas,” Bagwell said. “I have a lot of respect for what (Providence does) and the competition and what they bring.”
Providence took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Patrick Ryan doubled home Josh Hiatt.
But a Panthers mistake in the bottom of the fifth allowed Ardrey Kell to tie the game.
The Knights’ Ben Carrick was hit by a Dejuneas pitch to open the bottom of the fifth. Carrick stole second and got to third on a Bryce Rhead single.
When Rhead stole second, Providence catcher Andrew Fishel tried to pick off Carrick at third. His throw hit Carrick in the back and ended up in foul territory, allowing Carrick to score and tie the game 1-1.
A sacrifice fly to right field by Foster Machicote later in the same inning scored Rhead to give the Knights a 2-1 lead after five innings.
“We’re not going to get flustered when we’re down,” Bagwell said. “We believe in our offense.”
Ardrey Kell used three pitchers in the win. Zach Featherstone started and pitched four innings for the Knights, giving up the lone run and three hits while striking out two.
Henry Ryan allowed one hit and struck out two in the fifth and Carter Love pitched the final two innings for Ardrey Kell, allowing just one hit.
“Our pitching was unbelievable tonight,” Bagwell said. “(Providence) threatened all game long and we made big pitches when we had to. There in the sixth we made some errors and Carter Love stepped up in a huge way. …
“Really, congrats to our pitching staff. And it’s been like that all year for us.”
Both teams will begin N.C. 4A state tournament play next week.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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