West Brunswick varsity baseball’s winning streak ended at seven games, but a 7-4 win May 4 in a rivalry game at South Brunswick in Southport gave the Trojans eight wins in the team’s final nine games for a 14-10 overall record.
West’s winning run through the end of the regular season put the team in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs, seeded 17th and scheduled to travel to Bailey on Tuesday, May 9 for a first-round meeting with the 16th seeded Southern Nash Firebirds.
South Brunswick was seeded eighth in the 3A playoffs and was set to host 25th-seed Cedar Ridge of Hillsborough on Tuesday. North Brunswick earned the 27th seed and with it a trip to Sanford to play sixth-seeded Southern Lee.
West Brunswick 7, South Brunswick 4
The Trojans were offensive-minded from the start against South Brunswick, with senior Landon Everhart reaching second base in the first inning, Garrett Powell hitting a double and reaching third in the second inning and Noah Faulders reaching third after a walk and Everhart’s second single of the game in the third. But each inning the Trojan runners were stranded.
On the mound for West Brunswick, Zach Steagall kept South Brunswick in check for two innings. The Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third after a batter got on base after he was hit by a pitch, then a single drove the run home.
West finally broke through in the top of the fourth after Steagall led off with a walk. An Austin Inman single and a fielder’s choice on a ground ball by Noah Fluharty put runners at the corners. Then four consecutive singles into left field by Faulders, Everhart, Eli Needham and Luka DeRicco made it a 5-1 game.
South got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth after another hit batter and a single, followed by a pair of infield errors, brought the runners around.
The Cougars’ Walker Jenkins tripled and scored in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 5-4 but Steagall finished strong and had 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh against South.
West added two insurance runs in the seventh as Powell and Steagall walked and moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by Inman. Sincere Ledbetter walked to load the bases and Fluharty hit a double to drive the runs in.
Steagall pitched seven innings allowing four runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks while striking out eight Cougar batters.
“I’m just happy, man the guys played so good. they had a lot of energy and they didn’t get down. we had a little spot where we could have got down and folded, and we turned a double play and got out of it, came back extended the lead. And Zach Steagall shut them down at the end,” West Brunswick head baseball coach Greg Wrape said.
“We’ve had great starts at pitcher the second half of the season, no doubt about it. But I’ll tell you, I’ve got to give credit to our bats too. we hit the ball well. I think it was the fourth inning we hit the ball well, but those two runs coming in the top of the seventh were huge in extending that lead.”
New Hanover 3, West Brunswick 1
New Hanover, who earned the NCHSAA 4A playoffs No. 1 seed, came to Shallotte on May 2 with a 19-2 overall record and an 11-game win streak to challenge the Trojans’ seven-game streak.
West starting pitcher DeRicco gave up a leadoff double in the first inning but got out of the inning with the runner stranded on third.
West responded by taking a 1-0 lead when Faulders scored after he was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a single by Everhart and then Needham hit a sacrifice fly ball into the outfield to bring in the run.
DeRicco pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the second but in the top of the third the Wildcats tied the game with a two-out double to the fence and a single through the left side of the infield. Steagall, playing leftfield, faked a throw home that was cut off by Inman at third and thrown to Faulders at second to tag the runner trying to stretch out a double.
In the bottom of the third, a Fluharty line drive into right field led to a triple after New Hanover’s right fielder couldn’t make the catch. Faulders laid down a bunt but the squeeze play ended with Fluharty tagged out at home plate.
In the top of the fourth, the Wildcats hit a third double off DeRicco that reached the fence, but with one out, the runner tried to steal third. West’s catcher, Powell, made the throw to third with plenty of time to gun down the runner. A DeRicco strikeout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Needham reached base on a grounder by beating the pitcher to the bag, but he was stranded at first.
New Hanover took the lead 2-1 with a run in the top of the fifth. After two outs, two walks set up a single to left center that drove in the run and left runners on the corners. A steal put the runners at second and third but DeRicco escaped with another strikeout to end the inning.
The bottom of the fifth and top and bottom of the sixth were 1-2-3 innings, making for a decisive seventh.
The Wildcats’ leadoff batter walked to start the seventh. A bunt to move the runner rolled back to DeRicco on the side of the mound. He threw to second but the runner was safe.
Wrape made a pitching change to bring in Steagall to relieve DeRicco.
DeRicco allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts in six innings.
The first batter Steagall faced struck out looking. A grounder to shortstop got the out at second base but moved runners to the corners. A passed ball rolled to the backstop and allowed the runner to score for a 3-1 Wildcat lead before Steagall could end the inning on another strikeout.
West began the bottom of seventh with two outs on grounders in the infield.
Then Steagall bunted for a single and Inman ripped a single into centerfield to put the tying runs on base. But the game ended with Ledbetter striking out swinging.
“I thought the difference in the game was that we lost the freebie war. I think it came down to they had three walks and a hit by pitch and we had no free passes. I think that’s the difference against a team like that. they literally make you earn everything you get. They don’t walk people. They don’t put people on base free. They make you legit hit everything and they just don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Wrape said.
“That little difference in the game, that little freebie war. I think that’s where we lost it.”
The Trojans celebrated Senior Night at their final home game of the regular season May 2, recognizing Gabe Abbott, David Doherty, Everhart, Ledbetter, Needham and Steagall.
“I think the thing I appreciate about them is, I came in here brand new to the area, not knowing anybody. and when you come into a new situation, I think the biggest question is how are the people that have been here going to react to somebody coming in and doing new things. And I haven’t had anything but them reacting positively to me,” Wrape said.
“They have bought into what we’ve been trying to do around here. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior group as a new coach coming in. they’ve really been outstanding.”
Brian Slattery is the sports editor for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 910-239-7433 or email@example.com.
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