Providence High and Ardrey Kell each won two of the four games the rivals played against each other this season. Providence won the most important one.
The Panthers (26-4) upset the nationally-ranked Knights 3-0 in the fourth round of the N.C. 4A playoffs in front of a standing-room-only crowd of at least 1,200 at Ardrey Kell High.
“It means we’re going to the regional final. That’s the next one, man,” Providence coach Danny Hignight said. “We’re going to show up and play. I don’t even know when it is. ... We’re just going to take care of us.”
Providence, ranked No. 2 in the Sweet 16 and No. 4 in the state, will face West Forsyth in the best-of-3 Western Regional championship series, starting Tuesday at home.
Matt Ball pitched a complete game one-hit shutout against the Knights (28-3), ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 12 nationally by MaxPreps. Ball had six strikeouts and two walks, and his defense only had one error.
“I have a lot of confidence right now,” Ball said. “I feel really good on the mound and my team is phenomenal. Getting runs, making great plays on defense.”
Defensive mistakes by Ardrey Kell with two outs in the top of the third gave Providence a 1-0 lead. Tommy Dejuneas got on base when a ground ball got past Ardrey Kell second baseman Max Garner.
The next batter, Jake Holtzapple, reached base when Knights’ first baseman Logan Beehler couldn’t scoop a low throw from third baseman Doug Norman. Dejuneas scored on the error.
“The No. 1 objective coming into this game was to be clean defensively. We simply weren’t clean,” Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell said. “No. 2: Be aggressive early with Matt Ball’s fastball, we weren’t.
“Matt Ball pitched an outstanding game. He pitched extremely well and he kept us off balance all night. So the two things we wanted to do we did poorly, therefore we lost. Simple as that.”
Zach Featherstone pitched six innings for Ardrey Kell, allowing one hit, walking three and striking out four.
Ardrey Kell’s only hit came in the bottom of the sixth on a leadoff single by Foster Machicote. But Ball struck out the next two batters and forced a flyout for the third out.
Providence added two more runs in the top of the seventh. Jack King walked to start the inning and scored from third on a pitch that slipped between the legs of Ardrey Kell catcher Ben Carrick.
Andrew Moritz then singled home Adam Askey, pinch running for Andrew Fishel, to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
After the game, Hignight stood on the field and watched his team celebrate in the visitor’s dugout.
“The 20 guys in that dugout, it’s about those 20,” he said. “I know we’re going to talk about Matt Ball and we’re going to talk about Moritz’s hit, but the 20 guys in that dugout, that’s what we’re about.”