Ardrey Kell High's baseball team needed one win over Fuquay-Varina on Saturday to secure the school's second state championship. The Knights got two tries to get it.
It didn't happen.
The Knights lost 10-6 to Fuquay-Varina in the deciding game of a best-of-three series at Five County Stadium in Zebulon late Saturday night.
Fuquay-Varina, which is in Wake County, beat two Mecklenburg County teams in two state finals in seven days. On May 26, the Bengals' girls soccer team upset nationally ranked Myers Park in the 4A championship.
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But after winning Game 1 of the best-of-three series 3-0 Friday night, Ardrey Kell (27-7) could've won the baseball championship with a win in Game 2 Saturday afternoon. Fuquay-Varina won 3-2 despite losing ace pitcher Kyle Mott, a senior who had not allowed an earned run in three previous postseason starts. Mott injured his ankle in the top of the second inning.
Ardrey Kell took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning of Game 2, but Fuquay-Varina struck for two runs in the bottom of the inning, and the Bengals made it stick.
That forced a deciding Game 3 on Saturday night.
In that final game, Fuquay-Varina out-hit Ardrey Kell 13-5. But the Knights suffered a string of errors — and allowed three unearned runs — which seriously hurt their chances.
Heading into the deciding game Saturday night, Ardrey Kell was averaging 1.6 errors per game. The Knights suffered through five in the championship game, including in a decisive seventh inning. Ardrey Kell allowed a runner to reach first base on an error and move to second on a wild pitch.
Another error in the outfield allowed what turned out to be the championship-winning run to score. But up 7-6, Fuquay-Varina loaded the bases and scored three more times. And that was it. Fuquay-Varina had secured its first state championship since 2002.
The Knights twice made huge rallies to get back into the game, however, showing the resiliency that coach Hal Bagwell said made this group special.
Down 4-0 after the second inning, the Knights rallied for four runs in the third to tie the game. UNC recruit Cam Brantley’s RBI groundout scored Jakob Cohn. Then Joe Verdeschi scored on a wild pitch before Parker Ledford doubled to center, scoring Jackson Scott. Finally, Game 1 winning pitcher Trey Tujetsch grounded out to short to push Vasilios Kaloudis home and tie the game at 4.
Fuquay-Varina scored in the fourth and sixth to take a 6-4 advantage, before Ardrey Kell rallied again. Brantley drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 6 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
But Fuquay-Varina delivered the knockout blow in the seventh inning. Ardrey Kell, which won the 2009 championship, lost its second final. The Knights also lost in 2008.
In the final, Ardrey Kell's Brantley had a hit and two RBIs in three at-bats. Championship MVP Jack Howell had two RBIs and scored two runs in the final for the Bengals.