Bunn coach Chris Cullom said his team may have had a little chip on its shoulder heading into this season’s 25th annual Johnson County Easter Invitational.
But the Wildcats definitely came into the eight-team baseball event and took care of business.
Victims of a West Johnston comeback in last season’s title game, Bunn got solid pitching and defense for three days and topped a solid Triton squad 4-2 in Tuesday night’s championship game at Bruce Coats Field.
The result made the Wildcats, who allowed only eight runs in three games, the first 2A team to win the tournament since Clayton in 1995.
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Bunn was victorious in the first title game without a Johnston county team since Middle Creek beat Harnett Central three years ago. It was the third time in eight years including Middle Creek in 2008 in which a non-Johnston team won the crown, and the ninth time overall.
“Last year when we came over here it was kind of a turning point of our season,” said Cullom, whose team is 9-1 overall and 5-0 in its Northern Carolina 2A Conference. “We played as well as we had all year last year and we wanted to do the same again, but without the sour taste of losing the championship game.
“We try to play bigger schools to get us ready for the post-season, even if it means we lose a few games. It’s nice to be the ‘little brother’ and beat a few of the big guys.”
Triton coach Joey Miriello, whose team fell to 9-4, said the loss didn’t mar the way the Hawks have been playing lately.
“I thought we pitched well enough to compete tonight,” said Miriello, whose team is 4-1 in Two Rivers 3A action. “We just didn’t bring the sticks with us like we did in the other two games.
“We made some defensive mistakes early in tonight’s game that we normally don’t make, but that’s baseball. I was very pleased with what my guys did over the weekend. Tonight we got beat by a very good team.”
Juniors southpaw Logan Jackson and right-hander Josh Boone - the starting catcher who took the mound to relieve Jackson with a runner on in the fifth and the Wildcats up 4-1 — combined for the six-hit victory.
“I pitched well, but I made some mistakes and my team really backed me up,” Jackson said. “Last year we kind of gave the championship away.
“(Boone) came in after me and did a good job. He threw strikes and shut it down.”
Boone was named the tournament’s outstanding defensive player for his battery work. In a tournament marked by high scoring totals, Boone and his fellow Wildcat pitchers held their opponents to seven runs in three games.
“My legs were a little tired, but it was fun,” said Boone, who was the Wildcats’ closer last season but was making his first mound appearance of the campaign on Tuesday. “I was already warm and loose.
“(Jackson’s) fastball had some good movement, and his curveball got better as the game went on. His changeup was lights out. And for me, it’s all about my curveball.”
Bunn put up three runs in the first inning off starter Logan Avery to take control.
Spencer Brickhouse led off with a single to right, followed by a one-out single to MVP Thomas Dean. Davie Morgan followed with an RBI single before Ian Land stroked a two-run single.
The Wildcats added another run in the second as Connor McKeithan reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch.
“We just started playing together, and we hit the ball better this weekend than we had been before, “ Dean said. “This feels good. We did what we came out here to do.”
The Hawks tallied in the third, as Mason Tart walked and scored on a Bailey Tart grounder. They added one more in the sixth as Bailey Tart reached on a one-out walk and later scored on a wild pitch.
“I thought we did pretty good in the tournament,” Bailey Tart said. “Tonight, we just didn’t hit. Bunn’s pitchers were smart, they kept the ball low and threw off-speed to our big hitters when they needed to.”
Triton lefty David Phillips worked three no-hit innings to complete the game.