CLAYTON — Clayton junior Evan Phillips pitched well, but the Comets' successful baseball season came to a halt Friday night when Wilmington Hoggard eked out a 2-1 third-round 4-A playoff win.
Hoggard senior Coley Thompkins pitched equally well in the pitching duel, shutting down the Comets on two hits with six strikeouts. Clayton's run was the only one the Hoggard staff surrendered in three playoff games. The 21-3 Vikings will play either Southern Pines Pinecrest or Wilmington Ashley in the next round.
Clayton's senior-heavy squad closes with a 19-4 record and a Greater Neuse River Conference championship.
"Evan threw well and he's thrown well all year," Clayton coach Stacey Houser said. "It just came down to them capitalizing on a mistake. That's usually what decides a game like this."
With the score tied 1-1 after five innings, Phillips walked Hoggard's Mitch Callahan with one out. Callahan was balked to second and went to third on a single by Scott Johnson, just the Vikings' second hit in the game. Callahan came home with the winning run on a wild pitch that was low and away and got away from catcher Jacob Stewart.
Hoggard took a 1-0 lead in the first. Billy Vaughn was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. After a stolen base and sacrifice, he scored on a bloop single to center by Thompkins.
Clayton answered right back with a run in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Taylor Davis singled and Matt Bunn hit a long double to left-center to drive in Davis.
"The two guys that scored for them reached on a hit batter and walk," House said. "And we had the wild pitch. But you've also got to credit their kid. He battled out there and threw good pitch after good pitch."
Clayton also lost scoring chances when the Comets had the bases loaded with just one out in the fourth and then they left runners on first and third in the sixth.
"All year long we've gotten those clutch hits. We just didn't tonight," Houser said. "But these kids have carried themselves well all year with class."