Alex Royalty pitched like a Royal or royalty – take your pick – and helped Millbrook keep its season alive with an 8-0 win over Fuquay-Varina Thursday night.
Royalty, a senior right-hander, became the first pitcher to blank the Bengals this season with a five-hit, 11-strikeout shutout.
The Wildcats forced a third game in the best-of-3 NCHSAA 4A Eastern Regional baseball championship series, set for Friday night at 7 at Fuquay-Varina.
“It was all about coming out and pitching effectively with maximum effort,” Royalty said. “It’s been a long road to get to this point. We just weren’t going to let our season end on our home field.”
It’s the first time Fuquay-Varina has been shut out since March of last season.
“Alex kept his composure on a hot and humid night when he didn’t throw as many strikes as he normally does,” said Millbrook coach Austin James. “And our defense was big, especially in the early innings when they got runners on base.”
Catcher Basil Rodts threw two Bengal runners out on stolen base attempts and Royalty picked off a runner in the third. Fuquay-Varina (23-7) had runners on base in every inning but couldn’t score.
“I relied on my changeup a lot, mixing in the fastball,” Royalty said. “The curveball wasn’t where I like it, but they chased some of those.”
Offensively, Millbrook (19-10) blew the game open in the fifth inning.
Up 2-0, Andrew Strickland singled home Rodts with one out for the Wildcats. After a fly out and a walk loaded the bases, back-to-back hit batsmen forced in two runs to push the lead to 5-0.
Then Millbrook’s Zach Abdou came up with a timely hit and benefitted from an odd bounce for a two-run double. Abdou’s ball – which went just inside of the left field line – was deflected by the Fuquay-Varina third baseman and into the cavernous foul territory on the Wildcats’ home field, allowing both Scott McKeon and Tyler Eckert to score for a 7-0 advantage.
It was the second two-run double of the night for Millbrook; Rodts had one to start the scoring in the third inning. Spencer Williams singled and later scored on a wild pitch for Millbrook’s eighth run in the sixth inning.
“We were really good with two outs tonight,” said James. “This is real close to being a 1-0, 2-0 game if we don’t execute like we did with two outs. This score doesn’t tell you what kind of game this was.
“We just had some guys come through in big spots.”