Providence High sent its strongest message with Josh Hiatt.
The senior drove in a pair of runs in the first inning and struck out 10 Butler hitters in the Panthers’ 8-4 win in Game 1 of the N.C. 4A West Region championship series on Tuesday. Providence (28-3) jumped to a 4-0 advantage and never looked back in moving to within a win of advancing to the state championship series.
“Any time in a big game you want to get out to a big lead and set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Hiatt, who allowed six hits in recording the complete-game victory. “I think we did a good job with it, and we’ve got to keep it going.”
The host Panthers seized the moment immediately with leadoff hitter Andrew Moritz reaching base when he was hit by a pitch to lead off the first, followed by Jake Holtzapple’s double to right field. Hiatt stroked a sharp single to push both runners across, followed by Logan Davidson’s run-producing triple and Trevor Rhyne’s sacrifice fly for a four-run advantage.
“They did a great job from the start getting on for me when I got my first two RBIs and then coach (Danny Hignight) called a heck of a game, for me,” Hiatt said. “(Catcher Andrew Fishel) did a great job behind the plate working for me, and then the defense was superb.”
Hiatt did his part on the mound, limiting the damage to a run-scoring ground out by Alex Alamonte in the second and solo homers to Jordan Huntley in the third and Dean Looney in the fourth to close to within a run. Huntley also banged a double for Butler (20-6-1).
“I don’t think they saw our best,” Bulldogs coach Rick Sambrotto said. “We gave them four in the first inning, we got back to within a run and we got two quick outs when we got out there … and we just couldn’t get it together there. We lost it a little bit.”
Providence pulled away in the fourth with a three-run uprising sparked by Rhyne’s two-run double over the center field fence to plate Moritz and Hiatt, who each reached on walks. Moritz’s eighth-inning sacrifice fly added another run.