Sophomore Matt Willadsen belted a leadoff home run and it proved to be all the scoring the Holly Springs baseball team would need in its third round N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoff game against Cardinal Gibbons on Tuesday.
That was because senior Camden Munise threw a complete-game shutout against Gibbons, as the Golden Hawks earned a trip to the fourth round with a 2-0 victory over the No. 11 seed Crusaders.
No. 4 Holly Springs (22-5), who last advanced to the fourth round in 2011 – the same year it won it all – will travel to Greenville to play top seed J.H. Rose on Friday.
Munise recorded eight strikeouts with just one walk, and he allowed just three base hits to a team that had pounded Garner 14-2 in the second round. The right-hander worked out of a few jams, none more clutch than when Cardinal Gibbons loaded the bases in the top of the fifth inning and Munise struck out the Crusaders’ leadoff hitter to end the frame.
“We were just playing loose the whole game,” said Munise, who improved to 8-1 on the season. “We work a lot on playing focused and staying mentally strong.”
Crusader senior Pete Bloomberg was equally tough on the mound after the first inning, also notching eight strikeouts.
“We jumped out early,” said Holly Springs head coach Rod Whitesell. “We knew Bloomberg was a really good pitcher, and he kept us at bay the rest of the way. ... Munise competed hard and pitched us out of a couple jams. Every time he made a pitch he needed to.”
Willadsen slammed the first pitch over the left field wall, and then after Tyler Babin drew a walk, Ethan Miles drove him in with a double to right-center field.
“It was a fastball, I was just looking to start things off and get everyone here hyped,” said Willadsen, who also pitched Holly Springs to a 3-0 win over South Central in the second round.
The Crusaders (19-5) advanced their furthest in several years, but were disappointed with the lost opportunities on Tuesday. Cardinal Gibbons stranded eight base runners and had one thrown out by Miles at the plate.
“We’re certainly proud to have made it to the Final 16, but to not finish is a disappointment,” said Gibbons head coach Jim Liebler. “We couldn’t seem to get that timely hit tonight, but you have to give their pitcher a lot of credit. ... Pete (Bloomberg) is a smart kid, he’s going to pitch at Davidson (University) and he was lights out tonight after that first inning.”
In addition to Bloomberg, the Crusaders will graduate five other senior starters, including Noah Campbell, J.P. Roque, Eric Farley, Gabe Trenum and Montana Conrad. Roque doubled and Campbell and Conrad had the other Gibbons hits.
“We have a special group of guys from 1-to-21 and we always gave it our best,” Bloomberg said. “I love these guys like brothers.”