After a great regular season, the Goldsboro High School baseball team made history when it reached the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
Unfortunately, the Cougars’ season was cut short in an 11-1 loss against the Wolfpack of Whiteville High School in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A state playoffs.
The unique qualities of the Cougars baseball team this season was its chemistry and work ethic. Guided by seniors, Brody Morton and Cameron Roux, these Cougars over the past few seasons have revitalized the Goldsboro baseball program
“We’re proud of what we accomplished this year, and we’re proud of our seniors,” Goldsboro head coach Danny Merritt said. “We want to continue to put a product on the field that creates a sense of pride in our fanbase, our school and community.”
Entering the season, the Cougars had their eyes set on a few goals, including finishing with a winning record and reaching playoffs, both goals the Cougars reached.
From 2009-2017, Goldsboro won just 11 games on the baseball diamond. However, in 2018, Goldsboro finished with a 9-12 record.
Then last season, Goldsboro went 11-11 overall and posted a 6-6 mark against East Central 2-A Conference opponents during the regular season. That mark was good enough for third place in the conference behind East Duplin and Midway.
Goldsboro played some of its best baseball toward the end of the regular season. From April 18-30, the Cougars won four games in a row and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 48-18.
The Cougars ended the regular season with a 4-0 loss against Midway, but received a No. 30 seed in the NCHSAA 2-A playoffs, sadly Goldsboro was bounced by Whiteville in the opening round.
“We proved we can play with the best,” Merritt said. “There are a few things we’ve got to fix, but if we can stay healthy and have everybody contribute, we can play with anybody on our schedule.
“We want to play the best, so we can be playoff ready.”
On the mound, the Cougars’ Joshua Hartsfield acted as the team’s ace. Behind Hartsfield, Natorian Nobles, Peyton Wilkins and Morton all made up the Cougars’ rotation.
Hartsfield, who posted an 8-2 record, also led the club in innings pitched (59.2), strikeouts (84) and earned run average (1.17).
Merritt noted that his players are learning how to go from hunter to hunted and that they never quit. Another big takeaway was how his players emulated and looked up to seniors on and off the field.
With only two seniors on the roster, the Cougars are in a prime position to keep making strides on the baseball diamond. Hartsfield, Nobles, Wilkins and Matthew Lewis form a nucleus that will help the Cougars stay on their upward trajectory.
Offensively, the Cougars hit .299 as a team in 22 games, with Lewis leading the team with a .453 batting average. Wilkins was second in line with a .411 average and led the team with 20 RBIs and six doubles.
Morton finished his senior season with a .390 batting average, while Roux posted a .324 batting average and was second on the team with 19 RBIs.
“We’re going to miss them,” Merritt said. “Cameron is a competitive kid who leads by example and always puts the team first. Brody is a tremendous leader, he was solid everywhere we put him, and he never complained about anything.
“You can’t say enough about what they did for this program.”
Goldsboro scored an average of 6.77 runs per game, reaching that mark in 11 games. The Cougars scored 18 runs in a game once against Neuse Charter and scored 14 runs twice against Wallace-Rose Hill and Spring Creek.
Roux and Lewis would also be the top two Cougar hitters, knocking 24 hits apiece. In the runs column, Nobles’ 25 were a team best, while Hartsfield and Morton were right behind Nobles with 22 and 21 RBIs respectively.
With the spring season in the books, Merritt and the Cougars will hope to build off of last season’s success.
“We’re going to take a little break right now, but we’ll be ready,” Merritt said. “We’ve got everybody back, and we’ve got some good middle school players coming in, so we’re excited about next year.”