In a baseball game that seemed as if it might never end, West Johnston persevered Tuesday night.
Noah Liles hit a bases-loaded single to left with one out in the 14th inning, lifting the No. 4 seed Wildcats to a 2-1 victory over No. 29 seed Greenville Rose in the first round of the state 4A baseball playoffs.
The win boosted the Greater Neuse River 4A champions into a home game in Friday’s second round against either No. 13 seed conference rival Garner (14-6) or No. 20 seed Scotland (11-6), who squared off in their first-round contest on Wednesday in Garner.
The hit ended a spectacular pitchers’ duel, as ace Thomas Coggburn started and threw a virtual complete game of seven innings for the Wildcats before closer Dalton Mundy came on and finished the game.
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Will Wilder, who came on for the Rampants in place of starter Austin Swinderski to start the first inning, went the final 10 1/3 innings in the loss.
“The last time I was involved in a game this long was eight or 10 years ago,” West coach Joey Worley said. “Tonight we beat a real good baseball team and (Rose pitchers) pitched their butts off.
“We just didn’t hit tonight, but defensively and pitching-wise we were outstanding. We had multiple chances to win it and we finally did. It’s a life lesson for these kids about sticking together. I’m proud of everybody on this team tonight.”
It was the teams’ first meeting since Rose won 7-6 at West in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.
“You don’t get much better pitching than that,” said Rose coach Ronald Vincent, who has won six state titles and is in his 42nd season at the helm. “You’ve got to give all four pitchers a lot of credit.
“Wilder showed a lot of guts and a lot of heart. All you can ask is for the boys to compete, and we did. We didn’t get the timely hit and they got one at the end.”
The Wildcats got the winner in a messy 14th inning for the otherwise brilliant Wilder. Dalton List was hit by a pitch before Dylan McLamb’s infield single up the middle. With one out, Tony Mack was hit by a pitch before Liles came up with the killer hit.
“He threw me a pitch that was down and a little away, and I tried to stay within myself and hit it back up the middle,” Liles said. “(Wilder) mixed up his pitches and spotted his fastball and curveball well all night.”
West won despite getting only five hits on the night including a Sterling Atkinson double.
Rose finished with nine hits including a pair of singles with an RBI from Coleman Sawyer and a double and a single from Drew Steele.
Coggburn gave up four hits and the run in his stint, striking out 12 against five walks.
“That was a long night,” said Coggburn, who was showered and dressed well before the game ended. “I was able to get ahead with my fastball, throwing some off-speed stuff and then coming back with my fastball.
“We just had a great desire to win. And we got great defense. Someone was going to mess up and lose, and we just got the right hit at the right time.”
Fellow senior Mundy then struck out 10 without a walk, allowing five hits.
“I was feeling great,” Mundy said. “I was mixing up my pitches and felt good. (Coggburn) pitched a great game. He gave me a lot of confidence that I could go out and do what I did.”
Rose’s Austin Swiderski started with a trio of no-hit innings, giving up one run while striking out one against three walks. On came fellow senior Wilder, who struck out 14 against three walks and five hits.
The Wildcats scratched out a run in the third as Garrett Giddens and Mack drew back-to-back walks followed by a sacrifice bunt to the mound from Liles and Tyler Tilson’s fly to center.
Rose tied it with one out in the fifth, as Gregory Hardison drew a walk and stole second before Sawyer’s RBI single to right.