Milton Senter’s Fuquay-Varina baseball team posted his 609th career win that might be unlike any other playoff victory in his illustrious career.
The Bengals invoked the mercy rule with a 14-1 decision over Northern Durham in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs Friday night at Fuquay-Varina.
“What I was most proud of is we made some adjustments on their lefty pitcher and got to him the second time around,” Senter said. “They had to go to their bullpen and they had to use a guy who pitched on Tuesday.”
Fuquay, seeded No. 6 and ranked No. 3 among area schools, won its 14th straight game to improve to 22-6 and advance to the semifinals. Fuquay will play Millbrook in a best-of-three series for the Eastern title.
Northern, ranked No. 8 and seeded No. 7, finished 17-8.
The first two innings of scoreless baseball were quickly played. Northern pitcher Griffin Blake struck out four and Fuquay winning pitcher Austin Harris two.
“It looked like it would be a pitcher’s duel,” said Fuquay center fielder Andrew Smith, “and we knew we needed to get a run anyway we could.”
Smith, batting ninth, led off the third with a walk, and the Bengals had manufacturing a run in mind as Smith stole second base with a slick slide. Catcher Spencer Smith made a nice throw, but Smith slid his body wide to the right and reached back to touch the bag.
Designated-hitter Brycenn Braswell noted the base running and followed with a double to score Smith.
“That was a nice play,” Braswell said. “We trust our teammates to do the right thing. Once he got on second, I figured it was my turn.”
Braswell’s double was followed by a wild pitch, two straight errors, a double by Ryan Rizk and a third error for a sudden 4-0 lead.
Smith led off the fourth with a single to spark another rally that sent 12 batters to the plate. The Bengals scored seven runs on five hits, three walks and a two-run throwing error.
Braswell was 2 of 4 with three runs scored and one RBI and Justin Shelton was 3 of 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
“We ran into a buzzsaw tonight and kicked the ball around a little bit,” Northern coach Greg Pruitt said. “But (Fuquay-Varina) is one of the best programs in the state and has been for 30 years.”