In a well-played third-round playoff game between two evenly matched baseball teams, it was surprising that the final score was determined in the second inning.
Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina scored all of their runs during the first two frames, and what looked like a possible slugfest turned into a strategic contest where each team made the key plays to prevent the other from scoring any more runs.
In the end Middle Creek held on for a 4-2 victory on Friday and advanced to the fourth round for the first time since 2007, where the Mustangs (21-6) will host either Millbrook.
“We worked all year to have tonight’s game at our house,” said Middle Creek head coach Jeremy Thompson, whose Mustangs have not dropped a home conference game this year. “The only thing that’s hard is when two good teams like this come together someone had to lose.”
Thompson said that because both teams are in the same conference and know each other so well, fielders were often in the right position to make the necessary defensive plays.
Jimmy Boyd pitched a complete game for the Mustangs, striking out five Bengals. He also drove in the two runs that put Middle Creek ahead for good in the second.
Boyd stared down a potential game-breaking Bengal rally in the top of the sixth, when Fuquay-Varina had the bases loaded with two outs. Boyd forced Zac Orrison to ground out, ending the last best chance for the Bengals, who ended the season 18-9.
“I was confident because you can’t be worried thinking you won’t get the out,” Boyd said. “I did think we were going to have to put more runs up because those guys (F-V) may have the best bats in the state.”
Fuquay-Varina scored twice in the first inning. Orrison singled, stole second and then was driven in by D.J. Burt, who later scored when Brett Daniels reached on an error.
The Bengals lone rough inning happened in the second, when Middle Creek scored all four of its runs on just two base hits. Colin Pelosi doubled and then senior Blake Hunley singled and drove him in to trim the Fuquay lead to 2-1.
Alex Williams and Tyler Sholar each walked to load the bases, and then Boyd hit a fly ball to right field which was misplayed, plating Hunley and Williams. A passed ball then allowed Sholar to score.
“I told the guys this postseason we played 19 of 20 innings better than the other team,” said F-V head coach Milton Senter. “That was our one bad inning. It just wasn’t in the cards, but I’m very proud of our guys and the year they had.”
Junior Garrett Suggs took the loss, but went 2-for-3 from the plate. Seniors Orrison, Addison Braswell, Deuce Johnson, Chris Williams and Kirk Stephenson all played their final game for the Bengals.
Hunley and Keenan Herring both made great catches in the outfield to preserve the Mustang victory in the final inning. Herring’s diving catch off the bat of Daniels propelled Middle Creek to uncharted territory for this group of Mustangs, who are thoroughly enjoying the ride.
“This tied the record for the farthest round our school has made,” Hunley said. “It’s very important to all of us, especially the seniors.”