There’s much to be decided when the Big Eight regular season continues after Easter break this week, but four games into the campaign, it’s clear the league is deep.
Orange and Cardinal Gibbons have emerged as the top two teams. The Panthers are ranked No. 2 statewide in 3A baseball and are the only Big Eight team without a league loss – with a 2-0 conference record after downing Gibbons 6-2 in Hillsborough on March 24.
The Orange-Gibbons ensuing series game in Raleigh was postponed by rain, and the make-up game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Cardinal Gibbons.
Their loss March 24 has been the only miscue from the Crusaders (7-1, 3-1) all year, and they’ve stayed on the Panthers’ heels ever since.
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Cardinal Gibbons completed a two-game sweep of the Northwood Chargers on Thursday afternoon in Raleigh with a 6-3 victory. In Game 1 of the series, Gibbons shut out Northwood 8-0 Tuesday in Pittsboro.
Thursday at home, The Crusaders reeled off six unanswered runs to down the Chargers. Tyler Brosius went 3-for-3 at the plate for Gibbons.
“We’ve been hitting all year,” said Gibbons coach Jim Liebler “It’s almost like we expect guys to hit well. We’ve had a lot of guys contribute.”
Northwood (5-4, 2-2) struck first when Max Hundley scored on a throwing error.
Chargers pitcher Trent Bagwell threw four inning before being lifted for Brodie Beasley in the fifth, a move that coach Thomas Parks regrets he didn’t make earlier when Gibbons led 4-1.
“Brodie had just hit so he didn’t have time to warm up,” said Parks. “So I tried to go one more inning with Bagwell, I was two batters late on that move.”
Sure enough, Brosius stepped up to belt a two-run single that scored insurance runs that proved to be valuable.
Trailing 6-1 in the sixth, Northwood came back consecutive doubles from Jacob Sipe and Conner Leinback to narrow the lead to 6-3.
Crusaders' sidewinding righthander Jack Yusko came on in relief to quell any threat, but the Chargers loaded the bases again in the seventh. Gibbons escaped when the last Northwood batter hit a grounder that was thrown back to the catcher for a forced out.
While Gibbons and Orange battle it out for the top spot this week, there’s plenty of competition capable of making the regular season race most interesting. Chapel Hill, Cedar Ridge and Northern Vance have all made strong statements early.
“Every week is going to be a task,” said Gibbons coach Jim , who has coached at Gibbons for 18 years. “The depth is as good as I’ve seen. It’s a good baseball conference. Anybody can beat you on any day, so any time you get two wins against a team like Northwood, you’re happy.”