The historic season for the Green Hope baseball team ended with a slip-up Saturday afternoon.
The Falcons had a two-run lead and a cruising Chris Joyner on the mound heading to the seventh inning, and looked destined to force Game 3 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A baseball championship best-of-three series with North Davidson.
However, two costly errors led to five unearned runs for the Black Knights (30-2), who were able to earn their school’s first state title since winning in 1966 and ’67 with the 5-2 triumph.
“Both plays, we should have made,” said Green Hope head coach Michael Miragliuolo. “It’s just one of those things. North Davidson, they’re a very good team, and you give them extra outs, they are going to make you pay for it.”
The two miscues came an inning after sophomore left fielder Sean McQuillan made a diving snag on a line drive off the bat of North Davidson designated hitter Michael Johnson to save a run and a double.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that’s a run,’ ” said Joyner (8-2), who suffered his first loss since a March 24 defeat to Middle Creek. “But then, out of nowhere he makes that crazy catch.”
The senior entered the seventh having allowed just one earned run in 26 postseason innings with 35 strikeouts and three walks.
North Davidson head coach Greg Meadows said confidence was hurting with three outs left.
“Oh, we were feeling real good, getting man-handled by Joyner the entire game,” he said.
Black Knights second baseman Joe Butts led off with a single and Joyner hit Corey Joyce to put two on.
“He kind of lost the strike zone,” Meadows said.
Jed Bryant lofted a drifting pop up to shallow right field. Green Hope outfielder Joseph Nunn and second baseman Connor Knapp collided and the ball dropped, loading the bases.
A walk to freshman pinch hitter Jake Brown halved the Falcons’ lead.
Joyner then got a perfect come-backer to the mound. However, his throw was low and scooted past catcher Drew Hegeman as two scored and put North Davidson ahead, 3-2.
“Yeah, I think I rushed it,” Joyner said. “I was trying to get the double play. Two big errors there and everything just fell apart.”
Junior Jordan Montgomery came in to pitch, allowing a squeeze bunt by series MVP Jackson Meadows and a single that each brought home a run.
After a 1-2-3 inning by North Davidson reliever Nick Borgen, the Black Knights stormed the field.
“We handed it to them,” said Falcons senior Trevor Losito, who was 2-for-3 with two triples and an RBI. “We gave Game 1 to them. Then we came out today fired up and scored two quick on them. But then we kind of put it in cruise control. … Before you know it, it was over.”
Green Hope (25-7) finished with a school-record number of wins after seeing eight contributors from last year’s squad graduate.
“It was a heck of a year,” Miragliuolo said. “You know coming in that only one team celebrates at the end. We ended a lot of teams’ seasons.
“Nobody expected a thing out of us. … It’s not the trophy you want, but we’re leaving with one.”