CLEMMONS Providence’s baseball team had plenty of chances to even its NCHSAA Class 4A regional baseball playoff series with West Forsyth.
Instead, it was the Titans who took advantage of their opportunities, pulling out a 2-1 victory over the Panthers in nine innings Wednesday night to win their first 4A Western Regional title since 2002.
Alex Saphar’s bloop hit fell just inside the left-field line in the bottom of the ninth inning, driving in Josh Futrell with the game-winning run to give West Forsyth (27-5) a 2-0 sweep of its regional series with Providence (27-6).
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Panthers reliever Tommy Dejuneau walked Zach French, with Futrell coming on as a pinch runner. He moved to third on Brett Saunders’ single down the right-field line, and walked home on Saphar’s blooper.
“Those guys did a great job tonight … and we didn’t execute,” Panthers coach Danny Hignight said. “We played very poorly, to be honest with you. We gave away last night’s game (a 10-5 West Forsyth victory), but we didn’t give them tonight – they earned it.
“It’s a big heartache. We’ll just go back to work and try again next year.”
Providence – ranked No. 1 in the state and 21st in the nation by MaxPreps.com – pounded out 10 hits against two Titans pitchers.
However, outside of Andrew Moritz’s RBI single in the top of the third that put the Panthers up 1-0, Providence couldn’t turn those hits into runs. Ten baserunners were stranded Wednesday, seven of those in scoring position.
Meanwhile, Panthers starter Matt Ball held West Forsyth to two hits over seven innings, with seven strikeouts. But he gave up an RBI single to Tripp Shelton in the bottom of the third that tied the score at 1.
Providence had a chance to break the tie in the top of the sixth, putting a runner on with one out. But courtesy runner Shaun McConoughey was thrown out at home plate by Titans center fielder Aaron Stampler on a deep fly ball to end the threat.
Alex Vanderstok got the win in relief for West Forsyth, allowing just one hit in three innings, with two strikeouts.
Trevor Rhyne had three hits, and Josh Hiatt added two hits for the Panthers.
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