Green Hope, the No. 2 team in the News and Observer poll, played that way Thursday afternoon, taking a 6-1 win against Broughton in the first round of the 27th Bobby Murray Chevrolet High School Invitational Baseball Tournament at Millbrook.
In the nightcap, Millbook faced Roxboro Person. In the Wakefield bracket, Wake Forest played South Granville and host Wakefield battled Middle Creek.
Friday at Millbrook at 4, Green Hope will play Millbrook. At 7, Person and Broughton will square off. At Wakefield, the Wolverines will play South Granville at 4, and Middle Creek and Wake Forest will play at 7.
The eight teams are then seeded for four games to be played Saturday at Millbrook, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4, and 7.
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In the opener, Green Hope won its ninth game in a row behind 13 hits, a solid pitching performance by junior Troy Maslowski (4-0), and flawless defense.
“We’ve been on a pretty good roll. We didn’t lose a game in March and now we’re off to a good start in April,” Falcons coach Mike Miragliuolo said. “And now we’re starting a tough stretch of six games in nine days, starting with this tournament. We’d like to win, but it’s a tough tournament to win. We’ve been in the finals but haven’t ever won it.”
The Falcons are 5-0 in the tough Southwest Wake Athletic Conference and will face Sanderson in a nonconference game next week before taking on conference foes Fuquay-Varina and Panther Creek.
Green Hope hit the ball early, scoring four runs off five hits in the first inning. Second baseman Eric Gilbert and catcher Thomas Yoder, both of whom had three hits, singled and doubled to start the rally, setting up a two-run single by shortstop Stephen Pitarra.
After center fielder Matt Duckworth singled, Maslowski singled in another run and right fielder Chris Tutwiler drove in the fourth run with a ground out.
“We’ve hit pretty well this year, hitting about .350 as a team,” Miragliuolo said. “And today even some of our outs were hard-hit. We’ve battled and been scrappy at the plate.
“And with Maslowski we need him to throw strikes, and then play good defense behind him, which we have been doing.”
Gilbert pitched the final inning for the Falcons, retiring all three Caps batters he faced.
Junior Michael Merryman (4-0) will start Friday’s game.
Broughton (5-6) weathered the rocky first inning, getting outscored just 2-1 over the final six innings.
“Green Hope is a very good team, a good hitting team, and they hit the ball really hard and we made a couple of mistakes in the field,” Broughton coach Harry Jones said. “(Broughton starter) Ben Sawyer threw strikes and stayed down in the zone for the most part. He pitches to contact and we have to make the plays behind him. Today we didn’t make all the plays we could have.”
Broughton’s only run came in the second. Center fielder John Baldwin walked, catcher John Woods singled and left fielder Jake Baize singled in the run.
“We swung the bats OK, but Green Hope also played really, really solid defense, which helped keep us from getting anything going.” Jones said.
“We need to use this tournament to get ready for the stretch run. Finally it’s nice to have some good weather to play baseball,” Jones said.