ROCKINGHAM — Eighty-five minutes of nearly ideal road baseball Saturday night earned Fuquay-Varina the state championship series berth it has sought for the last 12 months. The Bengals roared by Richmond County 12-0 in five innings to take the deciding third game of the 4A eastern regional championship series.
Junior right-hander Jordan Bissette held the Raiders to three hits, while the Bengals played error-free defense and took advantage of every opportunity Richmond County gave them before a crowd of about 500.
“I’m really proud of the guys, because this is the culmination of a complete year’s work to get here,” said Fuquay-Varina skipper Milton Senter. “From the summer league work to the off-season workouts through the season, it takes a lot of work.
“I’m really happy for them; these seniors to get (to a state championship series) this year.”
The Bengals (26-4) won the 2002 state title under Senter and their win puts a Tri-Nine Conference team into the state championship for a third straight year. League members Holly Springs and Middle Creek have won the last two NCHSAA 4A state titles.
On Saturday night against Richmond and ace lefty Nic Bullard, Fuquay-Varina took advantage of breaks to score its first two runs. In the first, Garrett Suggs reached on a dropped third strike, moved around to third on a botched pick off attempt and came home on Lucas Scott’s sacrifice fly.
Two innings later, a walk to Bissette and another awry pick off throw set up senior Joe Williams’ RBI double. Williams, making a spot start at designated hitter and batting ninth for the Bengals, doubled twice.
Williams, D.J. Burt and Brett Daniels had two hits each and were the only Bengals to register hits. But every player in the Fuquay-Varina lineup scored.
Fuquay-Varina added three more runs with two outs in the third with Daniels doubling in two runs and later scoring on a Raider error for a 5-0 advantage.
“It helped to have been down here before so we knew what we were coming into,” Senter said of playing at Richmond County. “We got our confidence back with the win last night, took advantage of some breaks early to get runs.
“And Jordan Bissette did exactly what we needed him to do on the mound.”
Bissette struck out just three batters and issued two walks, but he took advantage of a defense on top of its game and seemingly always in the right place to make a play.
“I really located my off-speed pitches well and was able to hit my spots with the fastball too,” Bissette said. “I was able to get them to roll over on the fastball a lot.”
Fuquay-Varina blew the game open in the fifth with Burt doubling and Daniels singling before a string of Richmond errors and bases on balls – two that forced in runs – led to a seven-run Bengal output and a 12-0 advantage.
Burt had two hits in the fifth. His single off the glove of a Richmond infielder pushed two runs across and the lead to 11-0. A wild pitch scored the final Bengal run of the night.
“It’s a big relief to get here,” Bissette said of going to the state championship series. “Fuquay hasn’t been there since 2002. Coming into the season, we knew we had a lot of potential.”
Fuquay-Varina will face South Mecklenburg (25-7), which topped Asheville T.C. Roberson 6-5 in Game 3 of the western regional finals Saturday.
Richmond County, which reeled off a school record 28 straight wins before Friday night’s Game 2 loss to Fuquay-Varina, finishes the season at 28-3.
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