Kerr-Vance Academy baseball coach Todd Wilkinson was bathed first in sweat from four hours on the field, then by what was left in the water cooler after a pair of games Saturday.
After earning an N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 1A title, he and the Spartans don’t mind.
Kerr-Vance rode strong bats and five strong innings by starter Colby Wilkerson to a 5-1 victory over Lawrence Academy in the deciding contest of the best-of-three title series at The Oakwood School.
“I can handle this,” Todd Wilkinson said of the chilly bath. “Two great wins. It was hot, too.”
Kerr-Vance, located in Henderson, won the first game of the series 5-3 Friday, handing Lawrence Academy its first loss of the season. The Warriors, from Merry Hill in Bertie County, responded with a 2-1 victory in Game 2 early Saturday afternoon to set up the finale.
“They’ve got a great team,” Wilkinson said of Lawrence.
R.J. Johnson hit a one-out triple in the second inning for the Spartans, but two batters later, a safety squeeze attempt backfired as Lawrence Academy starter Miller Trowell fielded Chance Murphy’s bunt and threw to catcher Jarrett Harrell at the plate to cut down R.J. Johnson.
“We let that one go there, but we thought we could get to this pitcher,” Wilkinson said. “We still felt confident, and that showed in the next inning.”
Cam Murphy led off the third with a double to the right-field gap, and Colby Wilkinson followed with a bunt single. Murphy came home on a bunt by Jabe Montgomery to open the scoring. Two batters later, Colby Wilkinson and Wil Short scored on a double by Banks Conde. Johnson then doubled to drive in Conde to give Kerr-Vance a 4-0 lead.
Wilkinson did the rest on the mound. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up just one hit – a bunt single by Wood Trowell – and struck out five without walking a batter before he was pulled in the sixth inning after hitting his pitch-count limit.
“We made a few plays behind him here and there.” Todd Wilkinson said. “Throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count is the big thing so you can do other things.”
After Cam Murphy came in for Wilkinson, Lawrence’s Daquon Wilson reached on a throwing error, and scored on a single by Austin Wynne to trim the deficit to 5-1.
But Murphy settled down, retiring the last five batters he faced to help Kerr-Vance (19-4) clinch the title.
Johnson finished 3-for-4 at the plate in the finale with a double and triple. Cam Murphy, Colby Wilkinson and Conde added two hits each.
“That was big,” Wilkinson said. “All of them have come through all year long, not just today.”
In Saturday’s opener, Cam Murphy blooped a single into the right-field corner, took second base on a wild pitch, stole third and came home on Montgomery’s groundout to give the Spartans the early lead.
Wilson reached on an error in the third inning for Lawrence, and came home on a triple by Wynne to knot the game. Bond Wilson walked to open the fifth inning and scored on Miller Trowell’s groundout.
Harrell earned the win on the mound for Lawrence (23-2), scattering five hits and striking out eight without walking a batter. Murphy took the loss for Kerr-Vance.
The Spartans graduate just two seniors: Conde and Montgomery, a Barton signee who struck out 14 batters in a 2-0 gem over Wayne Country Day on Tuesday to advance Kerr-Vance to the title series.