Millbrook’s underdog baseball defied the odds throughout a slow start to the season and a No. 21 seed East Region of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state baseball tournament.
But the Wildcats’ remarkable season finally came to an end once they ran into a Charlotte Providence roster with six college commitments. Millbrook suffered a 10-2 loss to the Panthers on Saturday night at Five County Stadium.
Providence, the nation’s No. 21 ranked team by MaxPreps, rallied from a 4-3 loss Friday night to beat Millbrook Saturday afternoon 10-0 and then take the nightcap to decide the best-of-three series.
“I’m just so proud of our guys for getting this far,” third-year Millbrook coach Austin James said. “This is something no Millbrook team has done. This group of seniors has been unbelievable. They took what everyone thought was a rebuilding year and they turned into a state finals team.”
Millbrook finished with a 21-12 record and the West Region champion Panthers were 31-4.
The teams traded two-run rallies in the third inning with Providence scoring in the top half and Millbrook matching in the bottom for a 2-2 tie. But Providence took the lead again in the fourth when the Panthers manufactured a run for a 3-2 lead. Logan Davidson singled, stole second and came home on a two-out single to right field by Ohio State-bound catcher Andrew Fishel.
Base-stealing is part of Providence’s game. The Panthers entered the state final with 125 for the year, including seven players with 10 or more.
“They have so much speed and they’re so athletic,” James said. “They are a really good team.”
The Panthers put the game away sending 10 players to the plate in sixth inning. The big hits were a two-run inside-the-park home run by North Carolina-bound Josh Hiatt and an RBI double by North Carolina-bound Jake Holtzapple. The other runs scored on three singles, a walk, a costly two-run throwing error to home plate with the bases loaded and a sacrifice fly.
Providence centerfielder Tucker Jones was the MVP.
Millbrook was positioned to clinch the state title with a two-game sweep by winning Game 2 in the afternoon. But ace pitcher Alex Royalty was rocked for four runs in the first inning in a 10-0 mercy-rule loss to force the decisive third game at night. Providence had 12 hits in both the afternoon and evening games.
“Baseball is a cruel game sometimes and this was one of those times,” James said. “His wasn’t as good with his location and he normally is. But, honestly, he wasn’t throwing that poorly. They just hit it. It was one of those times you have to tip your hat and clear it from your memory.”