There are two ways to look at the result – a 7-0 Topsail victory – from Game 1 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A Eastern Regional Championship Series from the Corinth Holders’ point of view.
The good is the six-inning stalemate that followed the bad: a seven-run explosion by Topsail in the bottom of the first inning.
The result leaves Corinth Holders, seeded 19th in the East field, back in the same do-or-die situation it was in for the first four rounds of the playoffs: one loss from elimination. Game 2 is set for Friday at Corinth Holders High.
“I got the feeling the guys were a little gun-shy, nervous coming in,” said Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver. “We’ve got no experience at the regional final level and Topsail has a lot of it. They got hits with runners on base, we made a couple of errors and you end up with a big inning.”
Topsail (20-9 and seeded 17th in the east) got its big inning started with a hit batsman (Josh Madole) and a perfectly-placed bunt by Bryce Cota. Sam Hall got a run home with a ground ball out before Chase Riker doubled to center, putting two runners in scoring position.
After Corinth Holders’ left-hander Tyler Brown got a strikeout, Aaron Beach sent another double to center field, scoring both Hall and Riker for a 3-0 lead. An error allowed Colby Emertz to reach, setting up a Shane Nolan RBI single. Cameron Kimrey then notched an RBI single before Madole reached on a throwing error that also allowed a run to score for a 6-0 lead.
Cota’s second hit of the inning – a single to center – plated the seventh and final run of the night.
“You can’t ask for much more when you come out of the game like that,” said Topsail coach Chris Blake. “But, at the same time, you don’t want to get complacent, which can happen after a big inning like that.”
Topsail, two years removed from a state championship, ended up with just two hits the rest of the way against relievers Kody Cyr and Josh Jarman. Brown left with two outs in the first inning.
“Tyler just left the ball up in the zone tonight,” Weaver said of his playoff ace. “He’s pitched great of late, but everybody’s going to have a tough night every once in a while.”
Corinth Holders’ best scoring chance came in the sixth inning when it loaded the bases on an Eli Dalton walk, a Mason Cooper double and a hit batsman (Tyler Barritt). But Topsail got out of it with a pop out (expertly fielded by Emmertz, the Topsail catcher, against the backstop wall) and a strikeout.
Topsail’s Payton Rice improved to 10-1 on the season with Tuesday’s win and dropped his earned-run average to 1.12 per seven innings. He worked four innings, while William St. Leger, Johnny Tartaglione and Aidan Smith all worked in relief, combining on the three-hit shutout.
“With where we were at the game, we wanted to have Payton available if it came to it on Friday,” Blake said. “We got some guys out there to give them some time on the mound and treat their appearance almost like a mini-bullpen session.
“We’ll have everyone available for whatever we need Friday.”
Blake said he plans to start another Payton for Game 2 Friday at Corinth Holders: lefty Payton Phelps (3-1, 2.10 ERA).
Weaver didn’t offer a starting pitcher for Friday’s Game 2. If needed, Game 3 would be back at Topsail at 3 Saturday afternoon.
“We knew we wanted to have everybody available for Friday,” Weaver said. “It’s going to be all hands on deck. We want to have every chance we can to be put ourselves in the best position to win on Friday.”