Of the 11 public schools in the News-Argus coverage area, only three qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs.
Goldsboro (East Central), Eastern Wayne (Eastern Carolina), and Rosewood (Carolina) emerged out of their respective conferences and open postseason play tonight.
The Cougars, who are in the postseason for the first time in more than 25 years, travel to Whiteville to face Whiteville High School in the first round, while the Warriors are on the road against West Brunswick. Rosewood earned a first-round bye and will play the winner of Perquimans vs. Tarboro on Friday. All three squads are battle tested and prepared for the playoffs.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Goldsboro head coach Danny Merritt said. “It hasn’t really set in yet. It’s a really exciting and an honor to play a team the caliber of Whiteville. We’re excited about going down there.
“We know what we’re up against, but our kids expect to advance. They’re not satisfied with just getting into it. They really want to make some noise and have an impact.”
The Cougars (11-10, 6-6) were led on the mound by sophomore Josh Hartsfield. Hartsfield is 8-2 this season, has given up just 37 runs (10 earned), struck out 84 batters, pitched in 59.2 innings and has an earned run average of 1.17 on the season.
He’s hitting .352 with four triples and two doubles and 15 RBIs, while junior Matthew Lewis leads the Cougars with a .453 batting average.
Sophomore Peyton Wilkins was also a key contributor for Goldsboro this season. Wilkins has a .411 batting average, drove in 20 runs and nailed six doubles.
Merritt also praised the leadership of the two seniors on the Goldsboro roster, Brody Morton and Cameron Roux.
On the field, Morton is hitting .390 this season with 12 RBIs, while Roux has a .324 batting average, a team-high 19 RBIs and two triples.
“We have tremendous senior leadership. Those two kids really stepped up,” Merritt said. “They lead by example, and they really did a great leading the team. I’m really proud of them.”
The Cougars have won four of their past five games, and have outscored their opponents 48-22.
Switching to the 1-A ranks, Rosewood (18-3, 12-0) won the Carolina Conference title for the third year in a row. During the past three seasons, the Eagles are 37-1 in Carolina Conference play.
On the mound, the Eagles are led by junior Patrick Jones and sophomore Will Harris. Jones has an 8-0 record, a 1.70 ERA and tossed 45 strikeouts.
All season, Harris has remained consistent on the mound and in the batter’s box. As a pitcher, Harris fashioned a 6-1 record with a 0.83 ERA and 50 strikeouts, while offensively, Harris is hitting .415.
Junior Logan Price leads the team with a .529 batting average and four homers. Junior Tanner Capps is second on the team with .516 batting average and three home runs. Capps also leads the Eagles with 46 RBIs.
Will Albert, Logan Merritt, Conner Casey, Carson Hatem, Connor Wise, Gabe Veron and Jonah Clark all put up substantial offensive numbers for Rosewood.
Under coach Randall Fields, Eastern Wayne (17-4, 7-3 EPC) returns to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Fields’ squad that won just four games last season is young but loaded with talented players. Freshmen Sam Rice and Daniel Weeks, juniors Andrew Fricks, Wesley Case and Will Uzzell, proved catalysts for the Warriors.
Senior Ryan Sullivan and Fricks are the stalwarts on the mound for the Warriors this season.
Sullivan is 6-1 with a 3.02 ERA and 63 strikeouts while hitting .516 and one home run. Fricks went 5-2 on the mound with a 1.64 ERA and 36 strikeouts.
Seniors Colby Miller, Drew Barnes and Josh Gross have also contributed stout performances.