Baseball: Fuquay-Varina 4, Holly Springs 2

Fuquay-Varina wins Tri-9 Conference baseball title outright

mblake@newsobserver.comApril 27, 2013 

— It was the situation high school players dream of being in. With the bases loaded, two outs and two strikes, Fuquay-Varina second baseman Lucas Scott could end the game with an out, or win the conference outright by delivering.

It was the latter.

Scott’s single scored the tying and go-ahead runs for Fuquay-Varina in the top of the seventh, and it held on to win 4-2 at Tri-9 Conference rival Holly Springs on Friday night.

The win makes it impossible for any Tri-9 team to catch the Bengals (18-3, 13-1 Tri-9), third in The News & Observer rankings.

“I just knew I was due for it and it was my time to shine,” Scott said. “He got a good pitch on that last one – he definitely jammed me. I just managed to muscle it out to left field.”

Almost nothing was the same from the rivals’ first meeting this year, an 11-8 slugfest won by Holly Springs thanks to three home runs by Brian Fortier. On Friday, Fortier stepped up again for the No. 6 Golden Hawks (16-5, 8-5), but this time as a pitcher.

He held Fuquay to just two hits entering the final inning, and Holly Springs led 2-1. But the Davidson recruit gave up a single to Nick Stuart that started the inning and then back-to-back two-out walks.

That set up Scott, who has had the game-winning hit earlier in the week in a 3-1 win against Athens Drive.

“He’s been a gamer all year,” Fuquay-Varina coach Milton Senter said. “He’s been clutch and he’s played great defense.”

Fortier was removed from the game, and reliever Andrew Elwell gave up a RBI double by D.J. Burt before recording the last out. Fortier went 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking six.

“Fortier pitched great. We just didn’t finish the game,” Holly Springs coach Rodney Whitesell said. “But I’ll say, that’s two very good baseball teams that may see each other again.”

Fuquay-Varina entered last season with high expectations, and was ranked top 10 in the state by a preseason poll. The Bengals made it to the third round of the playoffs, but finished third in the Tri-9, too.

Without a preseason distinction, Senter’s team has now won 10 straight games.

“Our pitching has been off-the-chart good,” Senter said. “In the last 11 games, we’ve given up eight earned runs. You should win when your pitchers pitch that well.”

The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth, when Stuart tripled with men on first and second.

Brett Daniels, who had been hit by a pitch, scored but Nick Yarborough, who had walked, was thrown out at the plate. Holly Springs catcher Mike Sconzo blocked the plate with his foot before applying the tag.

Holly Springs tied it up in the bottom half as first baseman Andy Wantz drove in Sconzo from second. Wantz reached second as the throw to the plate couldn’t be cleanly scooped up by Fuquay-Varina catcher Brian Mitchell.

The Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Fortier singled in pinch runner Jordan Yates.

Fuquay-Varina starting pitcher Jordan Bissette went five innings, allowing eight hits and two earned runs while striking out four.

Holly Springs is now tied for Green Hope (16-5, 9-5) for second, but the Falcons swept the season series.

It might not be the last meeting this year between the two rivals – they’ve met in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, splitting the postseason matchups. Fuquay-Varina becomes the third different Tri-9 Conference champ in the last three years, with Green Hope (2012) and Holly Springs (2011, 2010) preceding it.

“Obviously, when you’re 18-3, (we’ve) had to win some tough games – and some easy games. This is one of the toughest,” Senter said.

Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps

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