Holly Springs was inches away from the second round.
In Wednesday’s opening round game of the NCHSAA 4A baseball playoffs, the Golden Hawks’ would-be tying run was thrown out at home to end the contest. Host South Central, the 16-seed in the bracket, won 3-2 as the Hawks scored two on the game’s final hit, a bases-loaded double by Chase Hetzel.
Holly Springs coach Rod Whitesell had moved down the line while waving in Conlin Hughes and was almost at the plate himself to see the final tag. He didn’t agree with the call.
“He was safe,” Whitesell said. “We kept fighting. We had the right guys at the end. I thought we scored the run.”
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Hughes, who got on base in all four plate appearances in his last high school game, was on first after walking with no outs. The first two batters in the inning had reached on a dropped third strike and a single.
South Central’s East Carolina recruit Cam Colmore struck out the next two Hawks batters to set the final stage. He ended the contest with 10. Hetzel’s rip to right-center field was Holly Springs’ only extra-base hit of the night.
With all that in mind, sending the speedy Hughes to home was an easy decision.
The game was somewhat of a microcosm of the fight No. 17 Holly Springs (15-9) had this season. The Hawks had just two hits on Colmore until the final inning when they got two more.
“Our kids competed. Their pitcher is very good. Honestly that was the best pitcher we saw all year,” Whitesell said.
“I never had to question their effort one time the whole year – practice, games, anything. We won a lot of ball games just on sheer competing.”
Holly Springs (16-8) and South Central (14-6) played each other for a final regular-season tuneup for the postseason, only to be announced as each other’s first round opponents.