After a sluggish night at the plate, it was a last-minute offensive outburst that kept Providence’s dream of winning the baseball state championship alive on Friday.
Catapulted by a six-run, six-hit seventh inning – including a grand slam by senior second baseman Logan Davidson – the Panthers knocked off North Davidson 8-3 to advance to the the N.C. 4A baseball playoffs.
“The last three outs are always the hardest,” said Providence coach Danny Hignight. “ Our last three outs were going to be hard, and we have a resilient club that believes in each other and plays with each other in their heart.”
The Panthers scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning. Junior designated hitter Satchel Jerzembeck reached first base on a two-out single and advanced to third base on a stolen base and balk by Black Knights pitcher Landon Michael. Jerzembeck scored on an infield single by junior Zach Brown to put the Panthers up 1-0.
The Panthers added another run in the top of the fourth inning when senior first baseman Trevor Rhyne launched a leadoff home run over the wall in center field. North Davidson roared back in the bottom of the inning, producing three runs on four hits to take a 3-2 lead.
Michael, who finished with five strikeouts, didn’t surrender a hit to the Panthers over the next two innings, and Providence entered the top of the seventh with its season on the line.
The Panthers got their first batters on base to start the seventh inning on a single and an error, knocking Michael out of the game. Providence eventually loaded the bases, and with one out, senior Andrew Moritz’s RBI tied the game at 3.
Senior shortstop Josh Hiatt put the Panthers ahead 4-3 with a two-out single, and Davidson sealed the game with his home run in the next at-bat.
“We’ve got an experienced club. We’ve been down this journey before. We’ve been through some battles. It’s not easy. It ain’t going to be easy next week. We know that. We need to get ready and go to play” – Hignight on his team’s experience being an advantage going forward.
Providence will be making its second consecutive trip to the regional round of the 4A baseball playoffs. In a best-of-3 series, the Panthers dropped back-to-back games to West Forsyth and end their 2014 season.
The Panthers advance to the state semifinals to face Butler in a best-of-3 series starting Tuesday. The Bulldogs beat East Forsyth on Friday. Providence defeated Butler 13-0 on April 23.