Whiteville advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A baseball state championship for the third time in four years Friday night with a 5-0 home win over Rosewood in the East final at Legion Field.
The Wolfpack (23-6) plated four runs in the first inning and lefthander MacKenzie Gore pitched a complete game shutout to end the Eagles’ season in the fourth round for the second time since 2014.
Rosewood (23-6) coach Jason King pointed to defensive miscues in the regional final, which also included a 6-5 loss at home on Thursday.
“They’ve kind of plagued us these past two games. It’s not something that’s the norm for us,” King said.
Whiteville added another run in the second, when Gore doubled to drive in Jake Harwood.
“We just couldn’t dig out of the hole,” King said. “Every run that is scored against you against a really good pitcher it makes it that much tougher. You’ve got to have some things go your way.”
King heaped praise on Gore, the only Whiteville player remaining from the 2014 squad that dispatched Rosewood and defeated East Surry to claim the first of back-to-back state championships.
“He’s a special player and not only does he throw hard, he has good off-speed and he can throw for strikes,” King said.
Gore, a projected first-round pick in next month’s MLB Draft, was nearly untouchable through six in front of the home crowd, striking out two batters in the top of the seventh before carrying a soft grounder to first for the final out of the game.
King said he’s happy with the way his program has progressed, keeping pace with perennial powers like Whiteville.
“They’ve been successful for a long time,” he said. “I have no doubt next year when they’re back up at the 2A level they’ll be successful again. You can look at their stands and see how many state championship banners they have. This isn’t anything new to them.”
That kind of annual success gives Rosewood something to aim for, he said.
“Every program aspires to have that kind of success and I think Rosewood could be that type of program with the support we get from our community and our school,” King said.
Whiteville coach Brett Harwood said this year’s Wolfpack baseball team has a little more pitching depth than his recent squads and depends more on situational running than his power-hitting championship lineups in the past.
“It never gets old and each team is special. We have to do the little things,” he said. “We have to get bunts down.”
Harwood said his team will be focusing on their game, not their opponent, in the final, which is slated to begin June 2.
“We’ve got from now until Friday to prepare,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about throwing strikes and making plays.”