Mooresville upsets Providence in NCHSAA baseball quarters
The Mooresville Blue Devils are heading to the NC 4A Baseball Final Four.
The No. 11 seeded Blue Devils upset No. 2 seeded Providence 5-4 Friday night at Providence. Mooresville will play No. 8 seed Ronald Reagan High, from Pfafftown, next week in the Western Regional Final, a best-of-three series.
Blue Devils’ pitcher Nick Merriman went six strong innings scattering six hits (all singles) striking out three and walking five.
“Before the game I was thinking that I’ve got to do this for my team,” said Merriman. “All year they’ve been grinding for me and I’ve been grinding for them. To be the only sophomore on the team I know that this was the best opportunity of my life.”
The Panthers almost tied the game by staging a furious seventh-inning rally but fell one run short.
Three Blue Devils’ pitchers hit three Providence batters in the inning and walked two. After scoring three runs on only one hit and still trailing 5-4 with two outs and the bases loaded, Mooresville catcher Davis Turner caught a foul-ball pop up close to the stands for the final out.
Mooresville coach Jeff Burchett was asked what was going through his mind in the seventh inning when his team’s 5-1 lead began to unravel.
“It about got away from us but you’ve got to believe and you’ve got to continue to believe in your guys. Nick (Merriman) pitched one heck of a game. I knew Providence wasn’t done. All respect to them and Coach (Danny) Hignight.”
The Blue Devils broke through for a pair of runs in the top of the first. With two outs Turner doubled and Mooresville cleanup hitter Quin Ferguson was intentionally walked. Merriman followed with a single that plated Turner and Ferguson for a 2-0 Blue Devils lead.
Mooresville scratched out another run in the fourth for a 3-0 advantage. Turner led off the inning with a single.
After a fielder’s choice, Merriman has hit by a pitch to set up runners on first and second with one out. The Panthers tried to pick off Ferguson at second but the throw went into center field. Ferguson narrowly beat the throw at the plate and the Blue Devils had their third run.
Providence finally got on the board in the fifth. After one out, Panthers’ lead-off man Patrick Bloomingburg singled and Michael Dansky walked. A sacrifice by Walker Woolf put runners on second and third with two outs. Cleanup hitter Sam Kagan singled in one run before Mooresville got the final out to get out of the inning.
The Blue Devils got two big insurance runs in the sixth inning to go up 5-1. With one out Ferguson walked. Following a groundout, Tafton Hensley was intentionally walked. With runners on second and third John Faulkenberry delivered a clutch single up the middle scoring a pair of runs.
Providence mounted a rally in its half of the sixth but couldn’t score. The Panthers had the bases loaded with one out, but Merriman struck out the final two batters to protect Mooresville’s 5-1 lead.
Subdued Providence coach Danny Hignight was asked after the game to talk about his team’s seventh-inning rally that just fell short.
“Our guys competed and that’s what we’ve done all year,” he said. “They competed to the end.”
THREE WHO MATTERED:
(Nick Merriman – Mooresville) The only sophomore on the team, Merriman pitched six strong innings and also knocked in two first-inning runs with a single for an early 2-0 Blue Devils lead.
(Quin Ferguson – Mooresville) Speedy right fielder walked twice (once intentionally) and scored twice beating close plays at the plate.
(Noah Hall – Providence) The Panthers’ starting pitcher yielded only four hits in 5 2/3 innings and was 1-for-3 at the plate with a single and an RBI.
Blue ribbons were passed out to all fans attending Friday’s game to honor recent fallen Mooresville Police Department officer Jordan Sheldon, who was killed in the line of duty on May 5
To get to Friday’s fourth-round, Mooresville beat Scotland (Laurinburg) 11-1, Pinecrest (Southern Pines) 7-6 and Hickory Ridge 8-1.
Providence advanced to the fourth round with an opening round bye, a 7-3 win over Lake Norman and an 8-1 victory over Hough.
THEY SAID IT: “They put us out in the first round last year. We’ve seen them, we’ve been to their place and it was a very tight contest last year in the first round. Our club will be ready and maybe we’ll get some redemption. They’re a heck of a ballclub.” Mooresville coach Jeff Burchett on playing Ronald Reagan HS in the Western Regional Final.
RECORDS: Mooresville (20-9)
Other area games
Pfafftown Reagan 8, South Caldwell 0: Reagan pitcher Will Rice threw a complete game one-hitter for Reagan in the win. Reagan scored eight runs in the final four innings to advance to the N.C. 4A Western Regional final against Mooresville. Reagan got two hits each from Carter Boyd and Trevor Faulkner.
Marvin Ridge 8, Alexander Central 1: Marvin Ridge scored seven runs in a decisive fifth inning to advance to the N.C. 3A Western Regional championship game. The Mavericks led 1-0 after scoring in the fourth inning. Henry Jackson was 3-for-4 with an RBI for Marvin Ridge and teammate Joshua Schwartz was 2-for-4. Alexander Central’s Dalton Stikeleather was 2-for-4.