It took just one inning for Green Hope (19-5, 10-4) to score all the runs it needed to defeat Panther Creek 8-2 Tuesday.
With the win, the Falcons clinched a share of the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title, the third time in four years they have done so. Fuquay-Varina, which also won its last game, shares the SWAC championship with the Falcons.
Holly Springs was part of a three-way tie for first entering Tuesday’s finale, but lost 8-7 to Apex. Green Hope and Fuquay-Varina will play Thursday at Cary High at 6 p.m. to see which one gets the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds for playoff purposes.
The Falcons jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning after five of the first six batters reached base. They wouldn’t look back, occasionally adding insurance runs and spoiling Senior Day for the Catamounts.
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Green Hope has overcome injuries to key players this year, such as Troy Maslowski’s broken arm and Nick West’s fractured face.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Green Hope coach Michael Miragliuolo said. “To come out with a conference championship, whether it’s shared or not, is an amazing thing.”
Miragliuolo came into the game thinking it would be close, possibly 3-2 he said, but that prediction quickly proved to be wrong.
“Our guys swung the bat against a good pitcher,” Miragliuolo said. “(Patrick Morton) was one of the better pitchers we’ve faced. We just played well.”
Though Panther Creek (9-12, 4-10) was celebrating its seniors, it was Green Hope senior pitcher Matt Duckworth who stole the show. The Falcons needed a good outing from him because he was the only experienced pitcher rested and available, and they got six strong innings.
“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Duckworth said. “I let the defense do a lot of the work because I knew they’re one of the best in the conference.”
The Catamounts needed the win to fight for a playoff spot but just couldn’t get anything going offensively. Pitching and defensive issues arose multiple times, such as the sixth inning when the Falcons batted around the lineup and scored four runs.
Though eight seniors – who played on the varsity team earlier than most high schoolers as sophomores – will leave, Panther Creek coach Dan Hall said he’s proud of his senior class’ effort.
“Above it all, I’ve seen eight guys really grow a lot as young men,” Hall said. “Really learning how to compete and how to deal with challenges and how to deal with failure.”