Fuquay-Varina junior pitcher Caleb Bissette is confident the Bengals are playing their best baseball of the season right now. After peeling off their 13th straight win in convincing fashion Tuesday, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
The Bengals sprayed 11 hits and Bissette twirled six shutout innings as Fuquay-Varina cruised past visiting Pine Forest High of Fayetteville 9-0 in the third round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. The Bengals (21-6) will face Northern Durham in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“This is the best baseball we’ve been playing by far this season,” said Bissette, who surrendered just four singles and a pair of walks while not allowing a runner to reach third base. “Really nobody expected us to come this far and we’ve just really worked hard and played great baseball.”
Fuquay-Varina did it in all facets. The Bengals showed patience at the plate (drawing six walks, including one with the bases loaded), timely hitting (three RBI doubles in three separate innings) and solid defense (two double plays and an outfield assist to go with just one error).
“You’ve got to beat the game. And if you play the game the right way, you’ll always have a chance to win,” Bengals coach Milton Senter said. “I’m very prided that our guys are playing the game the right way.”
Justin Shelton drove in three runs and Jake Baize (3-for-4), Brycen Braswell and Kyle Jackson all had multiple-hit games for Fuquay-Varina, which provided plenty of run support for Bissette.
The right-hander worked himself out of slight jams in the first, fifth and sixth innings before Braswell pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Bissette took advantage of a scouting report the Bengals had on the Pine Forest hitters, using breaking pitches to set up fastballs late in the count.
“He did exactly what we asked him to do,” Senter said. “He executed the game plan. We had a good scouting report and we kind of knew what we wanted to try to do with the top of their lineup, which is really, really good.”
Cobie Vance and J.T Stone, who hit .469 and .459 respectively for the Trojans (15-12), combined to go just 1-for-5 with three strikeouts against Bissette.
“We had a game plan before the game to just throw off-speed and get them out in front and then once they were looking off-speed just speed it up a little bit and keep them off balance and I think that’s what did it,” Bissette said.
The Trojan pitching staff was equally off balance as Pine Forest cycled through three pitchers in the first three innings. Starter Ethan Wilson, who entered the night with a 1.92 ERA in 43 innings of work, was pulled in the second inning after giving up five walks and two earned runs.
“It seems like we get a little bit better every game and that’s kind of what we want to try to do because we have to,” Senter said.