05/17/13 — North Duplin baseball column

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North Duplin baseball column

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 17, 2013 1:48 PM

Teams often embody the demeanor of their coaches and James Hobbs' even-keeled temperament seems to fit like a glove for the North Duplin baseball team this season.

The Rebels displayed a healthy dose of poise during their 8-7, come-from-behind win over West Columbus in second-round play of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A playoffs Tuesday evening. West Columbus grabbed an early 4-0 lead.

With just one senior on its roster, North Duplin exuded confidence in yet another pressure-packed situation. The Rebels won their sixth game decided by two runs or less and advanced to the third round of the postseason for the third time in the last four years.

When the Rebels (17-6 overall) rallied to tie the game against West Columbus, Hobbs encouraged his players to have fun. His advice didn't go un-noticed. Shortstop Ced Kornegay sung along with the music blaring over the PA system as North Duplin warmed up between innings.

You can't put a pricetag on that kind of confidence.

"We've been in close games all year," Hobbs said. "We don't get rattled. It works in our favor when we've been in that situation a lot this year. They play their tails off."

A tightly-knit team that has played together since their middle-school days, the Rebels rely strongly on a bond forged through on- and off-the-field relationships. They believe in one another and win as a team.

North Duplin bats below .300 as a team and has connected on just four home runs all season. The ability to produce clutch hits at critical times has been key for the Rebels, who have scored 33 runs in the sixth inning or later this season.

Hobbs' team endured three consecutive losses from late March to early April, but rebounded to win seven of its next nine games. The Rebels clinched their second Carolina Conference championship -- and first outright -- in the last three seasons.

"We've all grown up together in little league and we're used to winning," lone senior Mitchell Thigpen said. "With these playoff games, we've been in these positions before. Playing all those close games helps you prepare for the playoffs because in the playoffs you never know what's going to happen."