RALEIGH — During this season of transition for Millbrook’s baseball squad, one constant has been solid pitching.
The Wildcats got that once again on Friday night, but it wasn’t quite enough as Ragsdale picked up a 2-1 win on day one of the 26th Annual Bob Murray High School Invitational Tournament.
Ragsdale opened up a 1-0 lead in the first on a run by leadoff hitter Niko Orfanedes. After a scoreless opening inning for Millbrook, Corey Brandenburg scored on an error to give Ragsdale its second run.
Millbrook would answer with a Marcello Betances run in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to one, but that’s as close as the Wildcats would get. The rest of the game was a defensive battle, featuring an outstanding performance by Millbrook’s senior pitcher Brian Nobles.
The right-hander struck out 16 batters, including nine of his last 10 in the losing effort.
His performance drew praise from Ragsdale coach Donnie Maness.
“Once he got in the groove, he was an absolute freight train. I was so impressed with him," he said. “To get a win like this against that guy, the way he played, I’m pretty proud of my guys.”
“The first couple of innings I was trying to rush and get ahead,” Nobles said. “I settled down and got in the groove, and I love being in the groove.”
While Millbrook coach Austin James was happy with Nobles’ performance, he said he thought it may have contributed to the team’s three errors.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” James said. “The tough thing when you’ve got a guy throwing so incredibly well is your defenders fall asleep. We had guys that really weren’t ready in the field, they stand there and just watch strikeout after strikeout and when the ball is hit to them they kind of lose it a little bit.”
Millbrook will play Athens Drive at 10 a.m. Saturday at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary.
It’s been somewhat of a struggle for Millbrook this season, the first for James as the school’s varsity head coach. The team entered the evening tied with Sanderson for third place in the Cap Eight. Still, James said he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen from his team.
“We’ve lost five games by one run this year,” James said. “We’re close, we’re going to get there. We just need to keep our confidence.”