For the Leesville Road baseball team, Friday’s second round 2-1 extra inning loss to Pinecrest was a bitter end to an otherwise terrific season.
For Pinecrest (21-6), it was a breakthrough.
The ninth-seeded Patriots advanced to the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs for the first time since 2011. The game was played at Salamanders Stadium in Holly Springs, with No. 7 Leesville Road as the home team.
Pinecrest will host Fuquay-Varina on Tuesday.
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Nik Pry scored the game-winning run in the top of the eighth inning. Pry scored all the way from first base after Dax Ingram’s bunt was thrown over the Pride first baseman’s head.
“Dax told me he was going to get it down third, and he made a great bunt,” said Pry, a junior who has committed to play at North Carolina. “I got a little lucky there with the throw. It was just an awesome moment for us.”
Pry also pitched six innings, striking out four Pride batters, including two to get out of a fourth inning jam with Leesville Road runners on second and third.
Ingram came on in relief in the seventh inning and picked up the win.
Patriots coach Jeff Hewitt was proud of his team for persevering after the Pride had tied the score in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“This is what we’ve been working for,” said Hewitt, whose team defeated New Bern 7-1 in the opening round. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but we knew the team who could stare adversity in the eye would win this game.”
Tommy Vinson went 2-for-3 for Pinecrest. Trent McKay doubled and scored the Patriots first run on a Noah Thompson sacrifice bunt.
Hewitt was very impressed with Leesville starting pitcher Noah Latta, who will be playing for Methodist University in the fall. Latta pitched into the eighth inning before being relieved by Jared Leins.
“I knew the stakes were high and that they have a lot of good hitters in their lineup,” said Latta, who struck out three Pinecrest batters. “I just tried to focus on every pitch. These guys are my brothers and I’ve never enjoyed being on a team so much as I have with them.”
Leesville Road (17-9) had tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth when Jack Kaelin tripled and then scored on Leins’ grounder by beating the throw to home plate.
“I was lucky enough to get a triple, but our pitcher, Noah, kept us in this game,” said Kaelin, who went 3-for-4 at the plate. “Sometimes you just end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.”
Pride coach Guy Civitello was proud of his team, who went from nine wins a season ago to winning the Cap-8 Conference with a 12-2 mark and nearly reaching the third round of the playoffs.
“Pinecrest is an outstanding team and they executed on some key plays,” said Civitello, whose Pride shut out Pine Forest 4-0 in the first round. “I told our guys, this wasn’t a (typical) second round playoff game. This was a fourth-round type game. ... We had very strong senior leadership this year and we had a great season.”