Playing in front of a huge hometown crowd Friday night at Five County Stadium, Raleigh Millbrook upset nationally ranked Providence 4-3 in Game 1 of the N.C. 4A state baseball championship series.
Millbrook, which entered the playoffs as a No. 21 seed with a 15-9 record, is one game from winning the first state championship in school history. The Wildcats (21-10) will send ace pitcher Alex Royalty, a UNC Wilmington recruit, to the mound at 2 p.m. Saturday. Millbrook’s large student contingent is about a 30-minute drive from home.
Providence (29-4), ranked No. 21 nationally by MaxPreps, must win to force a deciding Game 3 Saturday.
“They’re a scrappy club,” Panthers coach Danny Hignight said. “We had that whole overdog-underdog thing, but you’ve got to go play the game. And they’ve got a good team.”
The Panthers were outhit eight to five and lost a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Scott McKeon blasted a two-run triple to right. Providence led 2-1 early after a two-run homer from Andrew Moritz in the third. The Panthers went back ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth when Trevor Rhyne singled home Moritz, who also had singled.
Providence had more opportunities against winning pitcher Reid Herring. The Panthers often hit the ball hard – but right at Wildcats defenders.
“We lined out seven times tonight, man,” Hignight said.
After McKeon’s big hit gave Millbrook a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh and final regulation inning, Providence had one more chance to extend the game.
Satchel Jerzembeck reached second on an error. After Zach Brown grounded out while trying to bunt, Tucker Jones walked. Royalty was moved from third base to pitch to the top of the Panthers’ lineup. Royalty forced a fielder’s choice and then struck out the final batter, with runners in scoring position.
That set off a huge celebration. But Hignight said no one on his team is panicking.
“I feel really good, man, really good,” Hignight said. “I like my club, I do. Royalty is good. We’ll see him (Saturday) I’m sure. We had our chances tonight. We had to get six more outs (up 3-2), and those last ones are always the hardest.
“I thought we’d get a knock there late turning our lineup over, but hey that’s baseball. We’ll just come back and play (Saturday).”
Marvin Ridge wins Game 1 in 3A series
N.C. Gatorade player of the year Max Wotell was brilliant in Game 1 of the N.C. 3A state baseball series Friday night in Raleigh.
Wotell (14-0) threw a one-hit shutout as Marvin Ridge beat Pikeville Aycock 2-0 at N.C. State. The best-of-3 series continues Saturday with Game 2 at 11 a.m. and Game 3, if needed.
Wotell struck out eight, allowing only a single by Hank Smitherman in the fourth inning.
Marvin Ridge, in the finals for the first time in school history, got a run in the third on an error and a fielder’s choice. Chandler Castleberry drove in the other run with a triple in the fourth.
Alex Leshock of the Mavericks was the only player in the game with two hits.