Seven innings of strong pitching led Heritage baseball past East Wake, 2-1, in the final regular season game of the summer.
Pitchers Vinny Bailey and Ryan Pifer combined to allow just three hits as Heritage (13-2) won its final tune-up game before entering the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League playoffs, which run July 22-26.
The loss marked the end of the road for East Wake despite its 9-5 record, since only the top team from each division earned a postseason berth.
Consistent play on the mound emerged as the theme of Thursday’s game.
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East Wake sophomore Justin Torres limited the Heritage batting lineup for the second consecutive game, recording seven strikeouts and allowing three hits in a full-game effort. Torres had one-hit the Huskies in a 1-0 East Wake win earlier in the season.
Meanwhile, Bailey and Pifer struck out seven and three, respectively, in their split of Heritage’s pitching duties.
Winning coach Dave Cunningham walked away impressed with both teams’ output from the mound.
“Our pitching was solid – it’s been solid all year,” Cunningham said. “It’s always been a group effort, two or three players every time. (Torres) does a good job of mixing it up ... and I’m glad we got a little bit on him today.”
East Wake coach Derek Matthews said Torres “really impressed” him in his final three starts of the summer.
Two runs in the third inning proved to be decisive for Heritage. A single to left by Matt Fuller (1-for-2) drove in runners Hudson Wells and Bailey after Wells (2-for-3) had opened the inning with a double.
East Wake cut the lead in half in the sixth inning. Walks to Peyton Creech and Ivan Peralta put runners on base with one out and a hit to deep left by Chase Brantley (1-for-3) scored Creech, but Brantley was thrown out at second and Peralta was later stranded on third.
The Warriors were unable to get another hit in the final inning.
Each team stranded four runners in scoring position over the course of the game. In both the fifth and sixth innings, East Wake advanced a man to third base but was unable to capitalize. Heritage had a runner on second with two outs in the fourth and sixth innings, yet also failed to add to its lead.
Matthews, whose emphasis has been on pitching all summer long, was satisfied with East Wake’s closing performance.
“We didn’t have half our team here and we had players out of position,” he said, “ ... so a 2-1 ballgame (was) about the best I think we could’ve done.”
Heritage enters the playoffs with high hopes, having lost just twice – to East Wake and Bunn – in 15 games this summer.
“We plan on winning,” Cunningham said of his postseason outlook. “We were one game short last year, so the only expectation is to win three games and take (the title) this year.”