Everything looked fine for Jordan at home on Wednesday night against Fuquay-Varina. Until it wasn’t.
Up 4-1 in the top of the seventh with two outs, the Bengals rallied for four runs and a 5-4 victory, stunning the Falcons in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A baseball playoffs.
Jordan starting pitcher Ben Miller pitched a gem through 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out four, but was pulled prior to the final out. Falcons head coach Aaron Brown brought in lefty Connor Garcia for a lefty-lefty match-up against Fuquay batter Lane Rhodes.
“Ben started on Tuesday, so we wanted to keep him at about 75 pitches,” said Brown. “He was way over that. I could not in good conscious keep him out there anymore. He wanted to stay out there, he fought me on it, but we had to get him.”
With a man already on first, Garcia walked Rhodes, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of righty Matthew Long. Brown once again played the match-up, calling upon righty Mike Henry. Henry issued a walk of his own, loading the bases for Brycen Braswell.
“They’ve been good for us all year,” said Brown. “But we think if they got the ball over, those were the eight and nine hitters, we think we could have gotten the out.”
Brown went to the bullpen again, bringing in Ty Wilson. Wilson appeared to have the final out, getting Braswell to pop up in foul territory, but miscommunication between third baseman Davis Downey and catcher Chris Shepherd caused the ball to drop harmlessly, giving Braswell an extra life.
“It’s a tough play,” said Brown. “It goes over the dugout and then pushes back into play. We work on it and we knew something small like that could decide the game. We make that play and the ballgame is over.”
Braswell cashed in, smoking a ball between third and short, scoring two runs.
Wilson still had a chance to close it with two on and two out facing Kyle Jackson. Wilson got ahead 0-2, but Jackson battled and finally laced a hit to right field, scoring two more and giving Fuquay a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Braswell closed the game with two strikes and a pop up, allowing the Bengals to advance and ending Jordan’s magical season.
An emotional Brown didn’t want to reflect too much on the season after the game, still taking in what had just happened.
“For these seniors that came in and started out with me as sophomores at 4-19, to be where we are right now, it’s a good way to send them off,” he said.
For Fuquay-Varina, associate head coach Zack Boraski has preached “competing” all season, and that’s exactly what his Bengals did on Friday night. Down to their last strike on two separate occasions, the Bengals never gave an inch.
“I can live with all results, as long as we compete,” said Boraski. “If they compete, and it goes our way, great. If it doesn’t, you can live with it. ... Before the last inning, we got together as a team, and we said, ‘compete.’”
While the Bengals were riding high moments after the final out, both Braswell and Boraski know that the team must come down a bit and get ready for the next round on Tuesday at Pinecrest.
“We’ll go back to work on Monday,” said Boraski. “We got another practice. That’s what we talked about yesterday. And we get to practice again.”
Fuquay-Varina 5, Jordan 4
Fuquay-Varina—Garret McCraw, Ryan Rizk (4), Bryan Braswell (6) and Lane Rhodes. Jordan—Ben Miller, Connor Garcia (7), Mike Henry (7), Ty Wilson (7) and Chris Shepherd W—Bryan Braswell. L—Ty Wilson. Leading hitters—Fuquay-Varina: Brycen Braswell 1-4, 2 RBI, 1-4, 2 RBI; Jordan—Nick Fajardo 3-4, 2 2Bs, RBI.
Records—Fuquay-Varina 18-7, 10-6 Southwest Wake. Jordan 20-6, 11-1 PAC-6.