Orange baseball coach Dean Dease told his players on the one-hour bus ride from Hillsborough to Holly Springs he scheduled the Golden Hawks for a test against one of the area’s traditional powers.
By the time the Panthers arrived, Holly Springs had found its pitching to beat Orange 6-4 Thursday afternoon at home.
“We struggled with our pitching early, but today our pitching was really good,” Holly Springs coach Rod Whitesell said. “We only had one walk late (seventh inning). In the first two games, I think we hit three or four people both games.”
Holly Springs improved to 2-1 after allowing 22 runs in a 15-14 loss to Heritage and 9-7 win over Southern Lee. Meanwhile, Orange dropped to 2-1 after opening with victories over Northern Durham and Riverside.
“Holly Springs hasn’t been around long, but their history is they are a baseball powerhouse,” said Dease of the Golden Hawks, who won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state title in 2011 behind Carlos Rodon, the third pick of the 2014 draft by the Chicago White Sox out of N.C. State. “That’s who we need to play to get better.”
Holly Springs starting pitcher Ryan McLean held Orange to one run for a 6-1 lead through five innings despite a lineup that that features South Carolina-bound catcher Brad Debo batting third and North Carolina-bound first baseman Bryse Wilson hitting cleanup.
The Golden Hawks scored three runs in the first when Penn State recruit Conlin Hughes led off with a double and was followed by five singles. Left fielder Chase Hetzel’s single knocked in Hughes, Pat Wheeler scored on a wild pitch, Tyler Babin singled, Henry Simpson singled home Hetzel and Babin and No. 8 hitter Luke Stodghill scored Simpson with the first of his two RBIs on the day with a single.
In addition to Stodghill handling McLean and reliever Matthew Lusuriello’s two innings of scoreless work for a save, he was 2 of 3 with another RBI single in the third inning.
“They were keeping the ball down in the zone so they couldn’t drive the ball,” Stodghill said. “They were throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count. They did a really good job.”
After McLean’s shaky first inning when he allowed two hits and a run, he limited Orange to one hit over the next four innings. But in the sixth, Orange’s Garrett Cloer and Debo singled and Wilson homered to 330-feet to left field on a two-strike pitch.
Lusuriello got the next three batters to end the sixth and the first two in the seventh. But an error and a walk brought up Debo, who already was 2 of 3 with an RBI.
Lusuriello, though, coaxed a first-pitch fly ball to end the game.
“We talk about how things go wrong you have to step up and make a play,” Whitesell said. “He made a good pitch and got a fly ball. And that was it.”