Cardinal Gibbons earned a bye in the opening round of the NCHSAA 4A baseball playoffs and coach Jim Liebler didn’t know what to expect from the No. 5 Crusaders against No. 12 Middle Creek on Friday.
The Mustangs already had a game under their belt, and Liebler wasn’t sure if that would give the visitors an advantage. Turns out the time off didn’t bother Cardinal Gibbons one bit. The Crusaders got off to about as good a start as Liebler could have imagined, scoring four runs in the opening inning, and defeating Middle Creek 8-1 to advance to the third round.
“Anytime you can score early it takes the pressure off a little bit,” Liebler said. “But you have to play seven innings. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we wanted to keep tacking on a little bit.”
With the win, Gibbons (16-7) will take on No. 4 Holly Springs, who defeated Wilmington Ashley 11-0.
Middle Creek (14-7) avoided the shutout thanks to an RBI by Nick Babyak in the top of the fifth, but by that point the Crusaders were well in control thanks to the four runs in the first inning and four more in the bottom of the fourth.
Gibbons pitcher Adam Bloebaum was fantastic on the mound, striking out 14 in the win. After walking Josh White to start the game, Bloebaum threw White out at first, then struck out the next two batters he faced to set the tone.
The Crusaders’ offense matched Bloebaum’s intensity in the bottom half of the inning. Dane Stewart kept battling and drove in the first two runs of the game with a double and Mack Muzzarelli followed that with a two-run double of his own.
During the extra time off Liebler said it was hard to get his guys focused and motivated. The bye has good and bad to it. It was helpful because players need the break, but they also want to remain sharp, Liebler added.
“To be honest I didn’t know (what to expect),” Liebler said. “Yesterday’s practice was OK, but today they had great energy, so I knew they were ready to play. They were able to sustain it.”
After Bloebaum retired the side in the top of the fourth, he was part of another four-run explosion in the bottom of the inning. Stewart drove in another run with a double, followed by an RBI single from Bloebaum. Noah Marshall put the final run on the board for Cardinal Gibbons with a two-run triple. The Crusaders’ offense went through four arms for the Mustangs, but Bloebaum was the guy for majority of the night. He left the mound with one out remaining, and Devin Preskenis came out for the final strikeout of the evening.
Bloebaum only gave up three hits all night, dominating Middle Creek right from the start.
“It not only had a great effect on me, but the team,” Bloebaum said about his pick off and two Ks in the first inning. “Pitching with a four-run lead going into the second makes everything so much easier.”
The Mustangs played in the SWAC, a league that sent six teams to the postseason, but Gibbons collected 10 hits in the win. And it helped to have Bloebaum in a zone with catcher Nick Tubolino all game.
“It says that we can compete with teams in other conferences,” Bloebaum said. “I’m just super proud of how we all played. It was a great game.”
Apex upsets Holly Springs, 2-1 in OT
HOLLY SPRINGS – There’s a difference between a conference champion dominating the standings and dominating a familiar conference rival in a post-season game.
Apex’s girls soccer team proved that point in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A tournament. The Cougars upset Holly Springs 2-1 in overtime period Friday night on the Golden Hawks’ field.
Holly Springs (15-3-3) was seeded fourth after winning the Southwest Wake title with a 12-0 league record, finishing four games ahead of 10th-seeded Fuquay-Varina and five in front of 20th-seeded Apex (11-7-1).
Although the Golden Hawks swept Apex in two regular-season matches, in the second match just nine days ago Holly Springs needed a penalty kick to win the otherwise scoreless game.
“We were confident,” said sophomore Laurel Ansbrow, who scored the game-winning goal. “I think we’ve been progressing as a team since earlier in the year. We wanted it.”
Ansbrow’s goal with two minutes left in the second 10-minute overtime period was the only regular goal in 100 minutes of play (80 regulation, 20 overtime).
Apex took a 1-0 lead 17 minutes into the match on an own goal that nearly held up. From then on the Cougars effectively packed their defense with five players disrupting passing in front of goalie Lexi Mitchell, who recorded 14 saves.
But with 35 seconds remaining in regulation a foul on Apex was called to set up a penalty kick. Holly Springs junior Reagan Kulha found the top right corner to force overtime.
The match appeared destined for a golden goal period until Ansbrow took the ball in the middle of the field, beat two defenders on the run and shot center to the left corner for the game-winner.
Apex plays host to No. 21-seed Apex Friendship on Wednesday in the third round. Friendship followed up Tuesday’s upset of No. 12 Panther Creek with a Friday upset of No. 5 New Bern 3-2.
Holly Springs’ girls soccer loss ended a bittersweet postseason evening that included three postseason games on campus. Holly Springs’ fourth-seeded baseball team beat No. 13 Wilmington Ashley 11-0, while the third-seeded softball team defeated No. 14 Wilmington Laney 3-2.
No. 1 New Bern 4, No. 16 Broughton 0
No. 8 Heritage 9, No. 9 Green Hope 4
No. 4 Holly Springs 11, No. 13 Ashley 0
No. 3 Corinth Holders 9, No. 14 Apex 2
No. 6 Laney 2, No. 22 Fuquay-Varina 1
No. 10 Garner 16, No. 7 South View 3
No. 2 Jordan 5, No. 18 Millbrook 4
No. 8 Southeast Guildford 5, No. 9 East Chapel Hill 0
No. 12 Hunt 5, No. 28 Cleveland 4
No. 3 Fike 8, No. 19 Rocky Mount 2
No. 6 Southern Lee 1, No. 22 Western Alamance 0
No. 7 Jacksonville 4, No. 10 Western Harnett 1
No. 9 NCSSM 8, No. 8 Providence Groove 1
No. 12 North Johnston 10, No. 5 Currituck 1,
No. 11 Randleman 10, No. 6 Nash Central 3,
No. 7 Bunn 3, No. 10 Dixon 2
No. 9 Granville Central 24, No. 8 Weldon 6,
No. 3 Edenton 17, No. 19 East Wake Academy 1
No. 8 Jack Britt 6, No. 9 Fuquay-Varina 1
No. 5 South View 6, No. 12 Green Hope 3
No. 3 Holly Springs 3, No. 14 Laney 2
No. 3 Cape Fear 1, No. 19 Clayton 0
No. 6 Cleveland 7, No. 11 Gray’s Creek 0
No. 1 Hoggard 2, No. 17 Cardinal Gibbons 0
No. 8 Laney 6, No. 9 Wakefield 2
No. 21 21 Apex Friendship 3, No. 5 New Bern 1
No.3 Heritage 2, No. 14 Broughton 0
No. 11 Millbrook 3, No. 6 Green Hope 2,
No. 10 Fuquay-Varina 4, No. 7 Pine Forest 0
No. 2 Leesville Road 5, No. 15 Corinth Holders 1
No. 1 D.H. Conley 3, No. 16 Southern Lee 0
No. 9 Chapel Hill 4, No.8 New Hanover 0,
No. 5 Clayton 3, No. 12 Gray’s Creek 1
No. 19 Northwood 2, No. 3 Hunt 1
No. 6 East Chapel Hill 1 No. 11 Eastern Alamance 0
No. 1 Croatan 9, No. 17 South Lenoir 0
No. 8 Jordan-Matthews 7, No. 24 Bunn 0
No. 19 Richlands 1, No. 3 South Granville 0
No. 2 Carrboro 3, No. 15 East Duplin 0
No. 1 Franklin Academy 5, No. 16 Woods Charter 0
#5 Manteo (12-4-0) vs. #12 Research Triangle (12-4-0)
#4 Neuse Charter (15-3-0) vs. #20 Rosewood (9-7-1)
#3 Raleigh Charter (16-1-0) vs. #14 East Wake Academy (15-4-2)
#6 Granville Central (13-7-1) vs. #11 Princeton (14-2-0)
#7 Southside (6-8-2) vs. #10 Roxboro Community (14-4-0)
#2 East Carteret (17-4-0) vs. #15 Voyager Academy (12-8-0)