The stakes are high at Rosewood High School tonight.
Rosewood, one of the benchmark programs of the Carolina 1-A Conference scene, needs a victory to secure a spot in the regional round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs.
The Eagles haven’t reached the regional round since 2017 and have a potential matchup looming with No.1 Riverside, who beat Rosewood in the second round in 2018.
“I know the guys who were here last year would like to face them again,” Rosewood head coach Jason King said. “But our mantra is one game at a time, and we’re going to look ahead at Riverside because we have to play at home first.”
Before the Eagles can peek over the fence at Riverside, they have to take care of business tonight against No. 3 John A. Holmes. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
The Eagles (20-3 overall) enter the pivotal dual on the heels of a walk-off victory against East Carteret in the second round.
Down 5-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Tanner Capps drew a walk. Logan Merritt laid down a bunt that turned into a single that moved Capps to third, while Merritt advanced to second base.
Will Albert was then intentionally walked, and Patrick Jones stepped into the batter’s box and singled to left field to score two runs for the walk-off win.
“I thought we played really well,” King said. “There was a momentum shift in the top of the seventh, and it took us a minute to stop the bleeding. We were really fortunate to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“I was really proud of the boys. For the guys to able to do their job at the plate was a big part of the game.”
John A. Holmes (18-7 overall) has won five of its past six games. The Aces have two players on their roster who have played at least 20 games and have a .300 batting average.
The Aces’ most significant strength is in their pitching, collectively the Aces have a 2.27 ERA and a 17-5 record. The rotation is led by one senior, one junior and one sophomore – Chance Kelly, Ryan White and Caleb Bunch.
Kelly posted a 6-1 record with a 1.97 ERA, while White is 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA. Bunch is 5-1 on the mound with a 1.57 ERA.
As is standard at Rosewood, King said his team is taking it one day at a time and will not underestimate John A. Holmes.
“They’re a very good baseball team. They’ve got some pitchers that do a great job for them, and they’re really good defensively,” King said. “We have to be focused and ready for anything.”