Millbrook ace pitcher Alex Royalty saved Friday night’s victory on nine pitches and is now is in the unique position to clinch the Wildcats’ first baseball state title as the starter Saturday afternoon.
“I want to shut them down,” said the UNC-bound Wilmington, Royalty, who is 9-2 as a starter. “I want to get the win for my brothers.”
Millbrook beat Charlotte Providence 4-3 on a two-run triple by Scott McKeon in the bottom of the sixth in the opener of the best-of-3 series of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship played at Five County Stadium.
The senior will start as scheduled for the East Region champion Wildcats (21-10) against the West champion Panthers (29-3). Game 2 will start at 2 p.m. Saturday with a third game, if necessary, to follow at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m.
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Millbrook third-year head coach Austin James opted to use junior Reid Herring in the opener the same as he did in the East Regional final against Fuquay-Varina. The Wildcats dropped the opener despite Herring’s 11 strikeouts, but Royalty tossed a shutout in Game 2 to force the decisive third game that Millbrook won.
“It’s a good strategy by our coach,” Royalty said. “Reid is a good pitcher that could go D1 if he worked at it and he could have got the win today.”
Royalty relieved Herring, who is committed to East Carolina football as a quarterback, in the top of the seventh with one out and runners on first and third. It was Royalty, playing third base, with a two-base throwing error against Providence leadoff batter Satchel Jerzembeck. After getting one out, Herring walked No. 9 batter Tucker Jones. Royalty came on for a grounder that held the runner at third for second out and finished the game with a strikeout.
“I made the error, so I had to come up big for my team,” Royalty said. “You have to show on the mound you can’t get rattled.”
Millbrook’s pinch-runner A.J Rogerson scored as a pinch-runner on a fielder’s choice for a 1-0 lead in the first and Tyler Eckert was hit by a pitch in the fourth to score Spencer Williams to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth.
In the sixth, Andrew Strickland and Royalty singled and McKeon cleared the bases with his triple into the right-fielder corner.