Millbrook senior pitcher Alex Royalty struck out the last four batters he faced on Friday night as he slammed the door on any Leesville Road comeback in a 4-2 state high school baseball quarterfinal win.
Royalty had 10 strikeouts in the game to help the Wildcats earn a berth in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A semifinals. Millbrook (18-9) plays at Fuquay-Varina on Wednesday night in the best-of-three series. The winner advances to next week’s championship series.
Royalty has gone the distance in every game this season. After Millbrook’s 6-1 playoff win over New Bern, in which he allowed just two hits, New Bern coach Gary Smith told the Sun Journal, “He was the best we had seen all year in my opinion.”
Millbrook coach Austin James said he didn’t consider taking the ball out of Royalty’s hands when Leesville loaded the bases in the fifth inning with one out.
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“We’ve relied on Alex now for two years,” he said. “We will continue to rely on him until hopefully June 8 (state championships). He’s got ice water in his veins. He turned a 1-2-3 double play tonight with the bases loaded to save the game. He’s just that kind of kid. When the spotlight gets the brightest, that’s when we want the guy. He certainly has been that guy for us.”
Royalty is 8-1 this season with 88 strikeouts and a 1.74 earned run average. He wants the ball in tight situation.
“I’m going to give it my best and give it my all every time,” he said. “I don’t care how bad I feel after the game. I literally think in my head that I want to destroy the batters.”
Millbrook has won five straight games since its 16-0 loss to the Pride on May 5. Royalty said the team is peaking because everyone now knows his role.
“The difference is our chemistry. We know how to get to each other now,” he said. “We’ve been down, we’ve been up and whenever it’s crunch time, we just tend to pull it all together as brothers and we end of scoring runs, and I end up getting people out.”
Millbrook, which didn’t play Fuquay-Varina during the regular season, is heading to its second straight eastern regional. Last season the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to Richmond High School off a walk in the final game of a three-game series. They haven’t forgotten.
“My goal is to give Millbrook another try, to get the coach another try because he knows that he can make a team now that can be a state championship team, and he’s such a great coach,” Royalty said.
The winner of the series between Fuquay and Millbrook will play either Matthews Butler or Charlotte Providence in the title series at N.C. State or at the Carolina Mudcats’ Five County Stadium next week.
First game in best-of-three series
(Most games are scheduled for Tuesday)
4A: Millbrook (18-9) at Fuquay-Varina (22-6) (Wed.); Matthews Butler (20-5) at Charlotte Providence (27-3)
3A: Lee County (17-8) at Pikeville Aycock (21-4) (Wed., 7); Shelby Crest (20-6) at Waxhaw Marvin Ridge (25-5)
2A: South Granville (21-2) at Midway (22-2); Randleman (24-3) at North Surry (23-4)
1A: West Columbus (17-12) at Whiteville (24-4); Elkin (17-7) at South Stanly (19-6) (Thursday, 7 p.m.)
First game in best-of-three series
(Most games are scheduled for Tuesday
4A: Apex (20-4) at Winterville Conley (23-2) (Wed.); North Davidson (23-5) at South Caldwell (26-0) (Tues., 7 p.m.)
3A: Hampstead Topsail (20-6) at Northern Guilford (23-2); Monroe Piedmont (21-4) at Enka (24-0), (Tues., 7 p.m.)
2A: South Granville (21-2) at Bunn (21-1) (Tuesday); Franklin (20-5) at Forbush (25-1) (Tues., 7 p.m.)
1A: North Duplin (16-3-1) at Northside (24-0); Lincoln Charter (22-2) at Hiwasee Dam (22-2) (Tues., 7 p.m.)
Girls Soccer Semifinals
4A: Wilmington Hoggard (231-2-2) at Panther Creek (18-0-2) (Tues., 6:30 p.m.); Charlotte Providence (22-1-2) at Lake Norman (23-1-1)
3A: Jacksonville (22-3-1) at Swansboro (24-2); Cuthbertson (20-2) at Asheville Reynolds (22-4)
2A: Dixon (20-2) at Carrboro (19-0-1) (Tues., 6 p.m.); Franklin (17-3-1) at Forbush (20-3-1) (Tues., 7 p.m.)
1A: Whiteville (22-1-1) vs. Raleigh Charter (18-0-1) at Wake Med Soccer Complex (Tues., 6:30 p.m.); Winston-Salem McGuiness (16-7-1) at Union Academy (18-2-2).