In a game that featured sunshine, rain, three lead changes, four pitching changes, flared tempers and a formal protest filed in the fifth inning, Orange relied on its standard leaders to move on in the state playoffs.
Catcher Brad Debo laced a two-run homer and an RBI triple as Orange (20-6) defeated Hunt 8-5 at Panther Field on Saturday. The Panthers will host South Johnston in the third round on Tuesday.
It was a day of relief outings by first-day starting pitchers. Hunt (13-13) had starting pitcher Bryson Worrell chased after only four Orange batters, two of whom scored. Warriors coach Jon Smith inserted Jacob Williamson, a Navy signee who had just thrown seven innings in a upset at Havelock Tuesday night.
After Orange fought back from a 5-2 deficit with four runs in the bottom of the third, Bryse Wilson, coming off a perfect game against Eastern Wayne on Tuesday, threw the last four innings of relief, giving up one hit. Orange’s Landon Riley (2-1) earned the win.
Wilson only threw 71 pitches in the perfect game Tuesday, which allowed coach Dean Dease to use him out of the bullpen against Hunt.
“His pitch count was down,” said Dease. “The plan was to maybe use him in the sixth and seventh, if necessary. Ideally, it would have been only the seventh.”
It didn’t work that way. Hunt led 5-2 going into the bottom of the third.
The Warriors scored all five of its runs with two out. In the top of the second, second baseman Neil Lewis singled in Parker Garris.
After centerfielder Connor Griffin walked to load the bases, Worrell singled to right field to score Joel Taylor, tie the game 2-2 and end the day for Panthers starter Derek Lindaman. With Riley on in relief, Williamson laced a two-run double to left field and the Warriors led 4-2.
Orange scored four in the bottom of the third.
It started when Cameron Mehl laced a one-out double down the left field line. After Debo reached on an error by the shortstop, Mehl scored on a passed ball.
After Wilson was intentionally walked, Williamson was called for a balk.
That led to Jaydin Poteat (running for Debo) scoring on a wild pitch to narrow the Warriors lead to 5-4. Senior Cole Campanile laced a single up the middle to score Wilson and tie the game.
Following a walk of Chandler Compton, centerfielder Johnny Flynn sent a soft floater to right field for a base hit. Lewis, playing second, fielded the ball only to find no one was covering first. Meanwhile, Campanile never stopped running and beat the throw to the plate, giving Orange an 6-5 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Debo cranked a two-run homer to left field, his fifth of the season. On the very next pitch, Williamson hit Wilson in the back, which increased the intensity of the game to a fever pitch. Warriors coach Jon Smith immediately replaced Williamson on the mount and both dugouts were warned by the home plate umpire.
The following inning, Wilson threw an 0-2 curveball and hit designated hitter Garrett Browder on the helmet. When Wilson wasn’t ejected, Smith protested the game, leading to a protest committee meeting on the field. The protest was rejected and Wilson finished the game.
“We protested because that was me fighting for my team,” said Smith. “I don’t think he did it on purpose. He hit us on a breaking ball, but I had to protest for my team. I hate that it happened, but at the same time, both teams are competing to try to move on to the playoffs. It just happens.”