Spring Creek turns back Princeton in 'play-in' game
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 13, 2009 1:47 PM
Spring Creek catcher Steven Best, left, waits for the throw as Princeton’s Phillip Mitchell, right, slides to the plate during their game Tuesday afternoon at Mount Olive College. The Gators won 9-7 and claimed the league’s final automatic berth to the NCHSAA 1-A baseball playoffs.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Spring Creek survived a strong offensive effort from Princeton claimed a 9-7 victory Tuesday afternoon at Scarborough Field on the Mount Olive College campus.
The two Carolina 1-A Conference rivals met on a neutral diamond to determine the league's fourth automatic berth to the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. The Gators (11-11 overall) secured the bid and travel to Holly Ridge Dixon for an opening-round game Thursday.
"It's a great feeling for these guys and especially these seniors," said Spring Creek head coach Heath Whitfield. "It's the first trip to the playoffs in five years for the school and the first of the seniors careers."
Down 6-5 in the fifth inning, Spring Creek went to work.
Steven Best and Lucas Potter drew back-to-back walks. Paul Hayes delivered a game-tying single, which led to a little controversy. Best scored and Potter headed home for the go-ahead run.
Best stopped at the plate to pick up the bat and got between the Dawgs' right fielder at the plate and catcher Dillon Daughtry. The home plate umpire ruled Best did not interfere with the play and Potter's run remained in the books.
Princeton coach Bruce Proctor argued to no avail and was ejected.
Spring Creek added two more runs on Eric Evans' RBI single and Corey Howell's base knock.
"We were patient and drew a couple of walks that we followed up with a pair of hits," said Whitfield. "I thought our guys really showed me something this week with two good outings and two huge wins."
The Dawgs attempted a sixth-inning comeback.
Daughtry led off with a single and scored on Matt Leverette's base hit. The Dawgs put two men on base in the seventh inning, but the rally ended when Phillip Mitchell was called out at third for leaving early on a potential sacrifice fly.
"I told my guys before the game that they get to decide it on the field and that's all they could ask," said Proctor. "You have to tip your hat to Spring Creek and coach Whitfield, those guys have done it the right way and they deserve a shot in the playoffs."
Getting an opportunity to play on a college diamond was a memorable way for the Dawgs' seniors to end their careers. Princeton finished the season 9-15.
"We have to thank coach (Carl) Lancaster and the folks here at Mount Olive for letting us use their complex," said Proctor. "There aren't a lot of colleges that would let two high school teams do that on almost zero notice."
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