Solid pitching, great defense and a real team effort at the plate.
Those things have carried Two Rivers 3A champion Corinth Holders all season long, and the Pirates got to show it again Wednesday night in the first round of the state baseball playoffs.
Mason Cooper doubled and singled with an RBI while Nick Peach had a pair of hits for two RBI, and Jake Lewis pitched scoreless ball for the final three innings as the No. 8 seed Pirates eliminated No. 25 seed Rockingham County 6-3.
The result moved the Pirates (13-7) into a Saturday meeting against visiting No. 9 seed Orange (20-4), which shut out Triton 5-0 in the first round. Rockingham finished 13-9.
“We knew we were going to be in for a dogfight, and we were fortunate enough to get out of here with a ‘W’,” said Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver, whose team played an error-free game while the visitors had three miscues.
“Different guys have been stepping up for us all year, and tonight several guys came through with runners in scoring position. That’s the name of this team right here. Different times, different people have stepped up.”
The Pirates outhit the visitors 9-8. Elijah Julian led Rockingham with a double, a single and a sacrifice.
Corinth Holders southpaw Grant Austin went four innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Fellow lefty Lewis then came on and struck out four against one walk and two hits to finish.
“I knew they were strong at the top of the order,” Lewis said. “I definitely had my fastball and was hitting my spots where I was supposed to. That was good because my curveball wasn’t great.”
Sophomore lefty Angel Zarate went the whole way for the Cougars, allowing three earned runs while striking out five without a walk.
“When you get to this time of year you’re going to face a quality team, and the team that makes the most mistakes is going to lose,” said Rockingham coach George Barber. “We booted some and had some mental mistakes and that was the difference.
“Angel is tough. He pitched a complete game in the first round last year and won, but our defense wasn’t too strong behind him tonight.”
Corinth Holders put up two runs in the first. Tyler Barritt reached on a fielder’s choice, followed by Lewis’ RBI double to right with Lewis continuing to third on an error. Peach scored Lewis by reaching on an error at first.
“We just know how to win games,” Peach said. “We know an ugly win is still a win. We didn’t start out great tonight, but we got some clutch hits when we needed them. And our defense and pitching were good as always.”
Rockingham scored one in the second as Jehu Zarate singled to left and scored on Bryce Ore’s one-out, bases-loaded grounder to second.
The visitors tied it in the third as Gavin Taylor singled to left and stole second, scoring on Jehu Zarate’s one-out fly to center.
The Pirates took the lead again in the bottom of the frame. Kahlil Hodge reached second on a one-out error at short, moving to third as Barritt struck out but reached on a passed ball. With two out, Peach scored Hodge with a line drive off the third baseman’s glove, followed by Cooper’s double to the corner in left to make it 4-2.
“We were focused and hit well,” Cooper said. “We kept our eyes on the ball. Our defense and pitching have carried us a lot this season. When we make plays, we win.”
Rockingham halved the lead in the fourth, as Julian hit a one-out double to right and scored on Zachary Bullard’s two-out single to right.
The Pirates added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth. Austin was hit by a pitch and then stole second. With two out, Hodge ripped an RBI single to left and took second on the throw, followed by Barritt’s RBI single to left to make it 6-3.