Holly Springs tops Cardinal Gibbons, continues run through baseball playoffs

At Holly Springs, the Golden Hawks define baseball success by more than reaching the post-season. They expect deep tournament runs.

Holly Springs has amended for last year’s early exit by advancing to the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A tournament behind an 11-strikeout performance from senior pitcher Patrick Trease. The Golden Hawks beat Cardinal Gibbons 6-1 in Tuesday night’s third-round game on their home field with a sign proclaiming their 2011 state title hanging over the right field fence.

“It feels good after we lost in the second round last year,” said Trease, who was pulled after 6 2/3 innings for pitch-count reasons. “We have high expectations here. We’ve been motivated to make up for last year.”

Last year’s loss was especially painful as the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye.

They began their bounce-back season winning the Southwest Wake Conference title to earn the No. 4 seed. The win over Gibbons (16-9) improved to the Hawks to 20-5 with a first-round bye and an 11-0 win over No. 13 seed Wilmington Ashley.

Holly Springs plays at home again on Friday, thanks No. 8-seed Heritage upsetting top seed New Bern, 11-4.

Trease was dominant from the start, mixing his slider and off-speed pitches. He struck out the side to open the game and the first five batters before a ball was put into play with a ground out to shortstop.

“We fed off Trease,” Holly Springs coach Rod Whitesell said. “He was brilliant on the mound. He pitched well all night. He’s a competitive. Our kids took that mentality with him.”

Senior shortstop Matt Willadsen came on to face the final batter, recording a 12th team strikeout for the night. He also contributed at the plate with a double and a triple.