The Green Hope baseball team anxiously awaited head coach Michael Miragliuolo for photos following its 3-1 victory over Hoggard on Thursday night to sweep the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 4A East regional best-of-3 series.
Miragliuolo was busy kissing his wife Jessara.
The two not only were celebrating the school’s first regional crown and berth in the state championship series next week, they were giddy their Friday night plans didn’t need to be altered.
The couple has a hotel room in Asheville booked to celebrate a first wedding anniversary and a loss on Thursday in Game 2 would have meant Game 3 in Wilmington on Friday.
However, behind another stellar pitching performance by senior Chris Joyner, the No. 4 seed Falcons made sure he’d get to celebrate with a little celebration of their own.
“Well, we really didn’t want to go back on the road to Hoggard,” Green Hope sophomore infielder Connor Knapp said. “You know, we like coach a whole lot, and we didn’t want him to be playing on his big day. But the big deal is playing for the state title.”
Said Miragliuolo: “The kids really stepped up and we got it done. Now, I’m really going to celebrate.”
Green Hope (25-5) will take on the winner of No. 3 North Davidson and No. 4 Providence from the West in next week’s championship series. That series is tied 1-1.
“It means so much,” senior pitcher Chris Joyner said after finishing off his 117-pitch complete game. “It’s the first time in school history. What a great accomplishment. You can’t help but get real excited.”
Early on, it appeared that the Falcons might have to go to a pitcher not named Joyner or Mitch Spence, the team’s only arms in the postseason.
Green Hope took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-RBI double by left fielder Sean McQuillan, but Joyner got into a jam in the third by hitting a batter and walking another two to load the bases with no outs.
Thoughts of bringing in a reliever were serious, Miragliuolo said.
Joyner responded by striking out the next two batters before a wild pitch allowed the Vikings to cut the lead to 2-1. Two pitches later, the inning ended on a grounder to short.
“I have a knack for it,” Joyner said. “I have a knack for getting into trouble like that, but I seem to have it for getting out as well.”
The Falcons responded in the bottom of the frame with Trevor Losito’s RBI triple scoring Austen Jones.
Hoggard got runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth but could not find an answer to Joyner, who struck out 10.
“You can tell that (not scoring) in the third took a little wind out of our sails,” Hoggard coach Gerard St. Ledger said. “A credit to Joyner, he battles hard.”
Hoggard (22-6) went down 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh, the only two times either team went down in order.
“It’s just the mindset of wanting to finish,” Joyner said. “It gives you that extra push.”
Green Hope is the fourth Southwest Wake Athletic Conference team to reach the state baseball championship in six years, joining Holly Springs (2011 champs), Middle Creek (2012 champs) and Fuquay-Varina (2013 runner-up).