It just doesn’t happen like this anymore.
In the six-game, unbeaten run by the Green Hope baseball team in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 4A playoffs that has catapulted the Falcons into the program’s first state championship appearance, senior pitchers Mitch Spence and Chris Joyner have combined to pitch every inning.
All told, Joyner and Spence have worked 41 innings, allowing three earned runs (eight total) for an ERA of 0.66. Only 24 batters have earned a hit, with five getting walks, and 49 have struck out.
The performance has left teammates in awe.
“Incredible,” senior outfielder Trevor Losito said.
“Nasty,” freshman shortstop Kohl Abrams said.
“Great,” junior outfielder Sean McQuillan said.
Five times out of six games, whoever started, finished the game.
The only time it wasn’t a complete game came in Game 1 of the East regional against Hoggard. Spence started and went seven innings. After the Falcons took the lead 5-4 in the top of the eighth in Wilmington, coach Mike Miragliuolo called upon Joyner, who struck out two to get the save.
“It’s a throwback,” Miragliuolo said. “I don’t know if it’s ever happened like this, with two guys sharing all the load, pitching every inning in the playoffs. Certainly, it hasn’t happened in a very long time.”
Sophomore infielder Connor Knapp wrapped up everyone’s sentiments.
“If it wasn’t for them, we’d never be where we are,” he said. “Every single time they do something else great. You think you’ve seen it all, but then they do something else.”
Funny thing is, both pitchers see it a little differently.
“It’s not just me. It’s not just Mitch. It’s the team,” Joyner said. “The bats have come around. We’ve had a lot of timely hits. And the defense is really stepping it up.”
Added Spence: “I think we’ve all hit a hot streak right now. We’re hitting the ball, and the two of us are throwing so well.”
Green Hope (25-5) will take on West champion North Davidson (28-2) for the state title in a best-of-three series on Friday and Saturday.
Neither guy was the team’s leader in victories when the regular season concluded on May 7 with a 7-3 loss at home to Southwest Wake Conference rival Athens Drive – a loss that kept the Falcons from owning the SWAC title outright, instead sharing it with Middle Creek.
Spence was 4-2. Joyner’s record was 5-1. That honor went to junior Jordan Montgomery, who was 8-1 with an ERA of 1.91.
“We almost went with (Jordan) on Thursday,” Miragliuolo said. “When Chris struggled early, we thought about it. … We were thinking about Thursday, but we were thinking about Friday, too. Jordan is our only other starter with experience, so we knew we needed him if we were playing a Game 3.
“So we stuck with Chris.”
That’s what it’s all about, Joyner said.
“We are two seniors and we really want to win it,” he said. “It’s mind over matter now. It’s a mindset that we just want to keep going. To finish it off.”
And the two, who have played together since the seventh grade, are perfect complements.
Joyner, who will pitch at UNC Wilmington, is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound left-hander. Spence, who is going to USC-Aiken, is a 6-1, 185-pound righty.
“I’m a fastball, curve-ball guy who comes over the top,” Spence said. “Chris has that slider, and his ball really moves a lot more than mine from the three-quarter delivery.
“I think in a series, it’s tough to adjust to us.”