Back in NC High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs for the first time since 2016, No. 20 Eastern Wayne made sure it wasn’t going to go home early.
In its first-round game against No. 13 West Brunswick, behind another quality start from Ryan Sullivan, Eastern Wayne scored a couple runs early and beat the Trojans 8-1 to earn its first playoff victory since 2012.
“We were all nervous, but they were confident if they played their game, they would win,” Eastern Wayne head coach Randall Fields said. “When we jumped on them early and scored two runs in the first inning, you could tell all of the nerves almost instantly went away.”
Eastern Wayne’s reward?
A game against No. 4 Terry Sanford, first pitch is 7 p.m. in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs (22-2) have won 15 games in a row and have not lost a game since March 28.
However, Fields believes he’s got a team capable of taking down the perennial powerhouse.
“All year our offense has shown we can put up numbers against almost any kind of pitcher,” Fields said. “ We’ll have everybody except Ryan Sullivan available so it’s all-hands-on-deck for the second-round game.”
Andrew Fricks is getting the start. Fricks has a 5-2 record on the mound with a 1.64 ERA. Colby Miller, Wesley Case and Josh Gross will all be available in the bullpen.
“Everybody will be ready to go multiple innings tomorrow if need be,” Fields said.
Terry Sandford has seven players hitting better than .400 — including David John Herz and Justin Ebert, who have combined for seven home runs and 53 RBIs — and a pitching staff with a cumulative 1.35 ERA.
Eastern Wayne is also battle tested. The Warriors faced eight teams that reached the playoffs. Freshman Sam Rice is fourth in the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference with four home runs, while Sullivan finished second in the conference with a 7-1 record.
Now the Warriors need to keep working and take a big step — but far from the final one — toward making their first title game appearance since 2009.
Fields said this game would be as tough as it gets, but he also feels like he’s got a robust and talented team that won’t go down without a fight.
“We can play with anybody in the state,” Fields said. “Our schedule has prepared us to play teams like Terry Sanford in the playoffs.”