Zachary Boraski needed someone to step up and be a hero. Luckily for the Fuquay-Varina baseball coach, plenty of his players were more than happy to oblige.
The Bengals, the defending 4A state champions, went on the road and came through in the clutch, defeating Leesville Road, 4-2, in nine innings.
When Boraski needed someone to be the guy, he suddenly had several players to choose from who helped guide Fuquay-Varina (11-10) to the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs.
Senior pitcher Joe Arnett, was steady on the mound, even when the Pride loaded the bases in the bottom of the 8th. Or Boraski could have singled out senior outfielder TJ Hardy, who drove in the first of two runs in the top of the 9th that turned out to be all the cushion Fuquay needed to secure the win.
Up 4-2 headed into the bottom of the 9th, Arnett, who has committed to Wake Tech, struck out the first two batters he faced. The third batter, Jack Hicks, popped out to right field and the Bengals are headed to Wilmington on Friday where they will take on No. 6 Lanley, who had a first-round bye.
“We have a lot of guys who are able to contribute,” Boraski said. “I think we played 20 guys tonight, so for us it’s like next man up, get the job done and they did it. We have an old team, they stay within the moment. A lot of us went on the run last year together.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bengals, and was the third straight loss for Leesville Road (12-10), who rallied after being down two runs heading into the bottom of the sixth. Nolan Straniero and Jack Irby drove in consecutive runs to tie the game, and the teams gave the fans in attendance two inning of free baseball. But down the stretch it was the veteran Bengals who didn’t rattle, keeping their cool on the road.
“The whole season we’ve been grinding out and just trying to stay focused,” Hardy said. “We just stayed calm and came in and hit the ball.”
In the bottom of the 8th, the Pride appeared to be position to knock the defending champs off the throne. John Mason Rogers got things started with a double. Straniero drew a walk and Jack Irby was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with two outs. But Arnett and the Fuquay defense was able to hold. Leesville didn’t get a hit the last inning after the Bengals put two runs on the board in the top of the 9th.
“I don’t let anything get into my head,” Arnett said when asked what kept him calm. “When I was up there I was up there to do a job for my coach and my team to keep us going.”
Broughton 6, Jack Britt 3
Green Hope 4, South Central 1
Middle Creek 6, Apex Friendship 5
Ashley 2, Rolesville 1
Apex 8, Purnell Swett 3
Garner 3, Hoggard 2
Millbrook 8, Wake Forest 4
Gray’s Creek 6, East Wake 2
East Chapel Hill 5, Lee County 0
Cleveland 6, West Johnston 5
Southern Lee 10, South Brunswick 4
Rocky Mount 1, West Carteret 0
Western Harnett 3, Clayton 1
JH Rose 15, Orange 3
NCSSM 6, J.F. Webb 2
North Johnston 9, North Pitt 1
Nash Central 12, South Granville 2
Bunn 1, Red Springs 0
Middle Creek 6, Garner 1
Fuquay-Varina 13, New Bern 1
Green Hope 10, Ashley 8
Corinth Holders 7, Wake Forest 5
Harnett Central 8, Franklinton 5
Clayton 2, South Johnston 1
Cleveland 12, Northwood 0
Bunn 2, Ledford 0
North Johnston 15, First Flight 0
APEX FRIENDSHIP 2, PANTHER CREEK 1
Panther Creek’s girls soccer program is rich in tradition with a 2015 state title and other playoff runs. Apex Friendship is a fourth-year school with a first-round loss in its only previous post-season trip last year.
Naturally, in the ironic world of sports, 21st-seeded Apex Friendship upset No. 12-seed Panther Creek 2-1 in Tuesday night’s opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs on the Catamounts’ field.
“It’s exciting to win our first playoff game,” said sophomore Kennedy Welsh. “Last year we were so upset we lost and worked hard this year.”
Apex Friendship (10-9) advanced to the second Friday at No. 5 seed New Bern (15-5), while Panther Creek finished 10-7.
Welsh and sophomore Macey Bader scored back-to-back goals midway through the second half for a 2-0 lead. Welsh scored on an assist from freshman Abby Cowell with 21:17 to play and Bader from 15 yards out on a left-to right shot with 16:45 left.
Panther Creek’s Paige D’Agostin made it a one-game game with 14:40 to play.
Although Panther Creek had tradition, a state title four years ago is ancient history to teen-agers. Welsh and Bader were sixth-graders; Friendship didn’t open until the 2015-16 school year with only sophomores and freshmen.
This year’s Friendship seniors, which includes goalie Baelee Benevento, who turned in a strong game, form the school’s second graduating class but first to attend four years.
Both Bader and Welsh had first-half near-goals, with Bader hitting the cross bar and Welsh a floater that dropped behind the goalie but drifted right of the net.
“It’s frustrating to come close, but encouraging we’re is playing well as a team,” Bader said. “We felt we would get more chances.”
Gibbons 1, Wake Forest 0
Wakefield 7, Garner 0
Apex 3, Ashley 2
Broughton 7, Purnell Swett 0
Millbrook 3, Middle Creek 1
Fuquay Varina 4, Athens Drive 1
Corinth Holders 8, Jack Britt 0
Chapel Hill 5, Swansboro 0
Clayton 6, East Wake 0
Grays Creek 3, Lee 2
Terry Sanford 1, Cedar Ridge 0
Northwood 4, Cleveland 1