HOLLY SPRINGS — The Holly Springs baseball team broke open a close game and scored three times in the fifth and then four times the sixth inning as they went on to defeat Jordan 10-4 in the opening round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs on Friday.
Junior pitcher Andy Wantz earned the win on the mound, pitching five innings and recording eight strikeouts. Andrew Elwell picked up the save.
The Golden Hawks (20-5) will travel to Millbrook, an 8-1 winner over Pinecrest, on Tuesday.
Holly Springs senior Brett Hudspeth (2-for-3) belted a clutch two RBI single in the fifth, scoring Trey Cobb and Zach Lancaster to put the Golden Hawks ahead 5-1. R.J. Arthur drove in Conlin Hughes to give them a five run cushion going into the sixth.
Jordan responded when senior Carter Dillard (3-for-4) nailed a three run homer to trim the Holly Springs advantage to 6-4.
Then with a runner on first, Ben Skeen hit what looked to be a single up the middle that would keep the Falcons’ rally alive. Hughes, a sophomore, made a clutch play with his glove and flipped the ball to a hustling second baseman Jordan Yates for the force to end the inning.
Holly Springs belted out nine hits, but had just one in the sixth. Still, two walks and three hit batsmen allowed Ryan Byrd, Mike Sconzo, Brian Fortier and Cobb to all score to ice the game.
“It was key that we were getting hot hitting the ball going into the playoffs,” said Hudspeth, who was a sophomore on the 2011 state championship team. “Being around those guys and seeing how they found a way to win close games and overcome adversity was important for us to learn.”
Golden Hawks head coach Rod Whitesell was proud of his team’s effort against a team with some strong bats. The top of the Falcon’s lineup accounted for five of their eight base hits.
“Their first few guys can really hit and they did a good job of battling back,” Whitesell said. “They definitely made us fight and work for this win.”
Whitesell praised Wantz, who allowed three hits to start the contest but battled back, struck out two Falcons, and allowed just one run in the inning.
The Golden Hawks tied the game in the second and then took a 3-1 lead in the third when Wantz nailed a deep double to score Cobb from first base.
Jordan (14-9) used five pitchers, but walked eight and hit four Holly Springs batters.
“We’ve got a group of pitchers who can’t function like that,” said Jordan head coach Devy Bell. “We have to be able to one-pitch, give our defense a chance and not make that many mistakes.”