The expected solid pitchers’ duel happened when Corinth Holders visited Northern Guilford again in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A baseball playoffs.
And then some slick baserunning, combined with a throwing error, decided it in the ninth inning of the scheduled seven-inning affair.
Troy Minor hit a one-out double and then scored from second on Josh Pike’s fly to center followed by an errant relay throw from short, giving the top-seeded Nighthawks a 2-1 win and avenging the Pirates’ win at the same venue last year.
It was the sixth straight win for the 25-3 Nighthawks, who will host conference foe No. 11 seed Rockingham County in the third round.
The 13th-seeded Pirates finished 19-5 in their final game as a 3A team, at least for the next four years. Corinth Holders will begin competing in the new Northern Athletic 4A conference in the fall.
The Pirates, who were Eastern Regional runners-up last season, had beaten the Nighthawks 3-1 in the third round on the way through the bracket.
“We had to play them sometime,” Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver said. “I wasn’t bothered by when we played them. Hats off to them. They had chances and capitalized on one of our mistakes. One mistake may be all it takes in the playoffs. ... Our pitching was solid. Bass came in and did a great job and competed.”
The Nighthawks outhit the Pirates 8-5.
John Clark Outzs, who will pitch for Charlotte next season, went 8 2/3 innings for the Nighthawks and struck out 11 against two walks.
Minor led the winners with a double, two singles and a walk. Pike, who has signed with N.C. State, added a pair of hits and a walk.
“This game was what I expected,” Northern coach Landon Kimrey said. “Corinth Holders always has good arms and they’re well-coached. They paint the black, and you’ve got to be a good-hitting team to beat them. I think it was a bad draw for us to have to play each other this early. But we’ll take it. The name of the game is survive-and-advance.”
Designated hitter Logan Whitley led the Pirates with a pair of singles.
The hosts scored in the first inning when N.C. State-bound J.T. Jarrett led off with a double off starter Josh Jarman, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Logan King’s fly to center.
Corinth Holders tied it in the second as Carson Sakowski led off with a single and then scored on a single from Barton-bound Alec Seaton.
Jarman, who will pitch at Brunswick Community College, lasted 2 1/3 innings and allowed the run on three hits, striking out one and walking two. Bass took the hard-luck loss, going 6 1/3 and allowing five hits while striking out five against one walk.
“I threw strikes,” Bass said. “(Catcher Sakowski) and I were pretty well in tune all day. We’re going to miss our seniors a lot. But we’ve got a lot of good underclassmen who have to work hard. We played our hardest, and 19-5 is a good season. I just wish we could have gone a little deeper in the playoffs.”
The senior Whitley said he has cherished the chance to play for such a successful program.
“We fought hard all year, and it’s tough to come up short,” said Whitley, who plans to attend Wake Tech to study fire prevention but not to play baseball. “The guys who are coming back are going to have to work hard and step it up for 4A competition. We got to play in the Eastern finals last year and that was a great memory. I just wish we had been able to play some more this year.”
The Pirates’ first baseman Mason Cooper and right fielder Tate Proctor are headed to Barton with Seaton.
Weaver said heading to the 4A ranks will be a major challenge.
“I think there’s a big difference in the depth and quality of depth in 3A and 4A,” the coach said. “Our seniors are going to be missed dearly, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. Some young kids are going to have to step up. Our guys have competed and they get after it. They have learned to play with intensity in the playoffs, and that’s what it’s all about.”