Holly Springs senior Ethan Miles drove in three runs and teammate Tyler Babin blasted a solo home run to lead the Golden Hawks past Rolesville 7-2 in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A baseball playoffs on Tuesday.
Holly Springs, the No. 4 seed in the East, will host South Central on Friday. South Central, the No. 15 seed, edged Green Hope 7-5 in their playoff opener.
The Hawks (20-5) scored five runs in the first two innings to take control. Miles doubled twice, including one that hit the left field wall, and Holly Springs made it tough for Rams starting pitcher Alex Hart, drawing six walks in the first two frames.
“We took advantage of having base runners early and were able to put some pressure on them, which I think was the difference in the game,” said Holly Springs head coach Rod Whitesell. “That was a huge double by Miles in the first.”
The Hawks also stole nine bases, putting Rolesville pitchers in jams in all but the last couple innings.
Babin’s sixth-inning homer, his second of the season, sailed over the right field wall above the banner that commemorates the 2011 state championship team.
“We showed up tonight with a lot of intensity,” said Babin, a senior catcher. “We have the talent, we just need to take it one game a time, stay focused, and play our game.”
Holly Springs started seven seniors, and their leadership and experience showed. Camden Munise (7-1) earned the win and pitched out of some jams, including the fifth inning with runners in scoring position, when he struck out a Rolesville batter to end the inning after going down 0-3 in the count.
Senior centerfielder Cameron Ellington made a clutch catch an inning earlier to end a potential Ram rally with two runners on base and a hard-hit ball to deep center by Van Gupton.
Ellington also went 3-for-4 from the plate and drove in a run.
Rolesville (14-11) enjoyed its best season in the school’s young history. The Rams improved their win total and reached the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“This senior class is the first group that has been at Rolesville all four years,” said Ram coach Jake Gross. “They’ve been through it all, from the years where they lost almost every game, to being a playoff team who could compete with a team like Holly Springs.”
The Rams were 4-5 in games decided by one run, including two 1-0 losses to Greater Neuse River champ Garner.
“Our season could have gone a different way if those games we score another couple runs,” said Gross. “We need to find a way to win those types of games.”
Hart will play at Barton College in the fall, while Jordan Payne (3-for-4) will play at N.C. Central University.
Rolesville will also return several young players who gained valuable experience, including Andrew Guile, who was sick all week but managed to bat 2-for-4 on Tuesday.
Ras Ran Amon pitched well in relief for the Rams, and also posted a base hit.