Bad inning haunts North Johnston in EPC tiebreaker game

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The North Johnston High varsity baseball team fell in a tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed from the Eastern Plains Conference for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A playoffs with an 8-5 loss to Nash Central on Friday night at Beddingfield High.

The Panthers (20-3, 9-1 EPC) were shorthanded Friday night as they had pitched their best pitchers against North Pitt on Tuesday and Thursday night plus their starting catcher, Llmar Ramirez, could not play. North Johnston made a valiant effort, but couldn’t overcome a six-run inning in the second that gave Nash Central (17-7, 9-1 EPC) a 6-0 lead. Senior Tucker Batten started the game for the Panthers and went 1 1/3 innings while giving up six runs, four of them unearned. Batten handed out two walks. Senior Daylan Hinnant, who hadn’t pitched all season, came in and gave North Johnston 5 2/3 innings while giving up five hits, two runs and five walks. One run was unearned.

“I knew coming in we would be depleted on the pitching side, and had to have people step up and for the most part we did,” North Johnston head coach Brian Ford said. “If you were watching the game, you saw we had our chances and we just didn’t get the big hit.”

The Panthers stranded nine base runners — six in scoring position. Ty Narron led the offense going 3-3 with an RBI. Seth Coates was 2-4 with 2 RBIs and Dylan Pitts was 1-4 with an RBI. 

North Johnston will now await to find out who they will play in the first round of the playoffs on May 7. The Panthers are expected to get a top 16 seed and host at least one playoff game. 

“Doesn’t matter where we play, we’re going to be a tough out for somebody,” Ford said. “Anybody that watches us play, knows there’s no quit in us. We play well on the road. We got great fans that come and watch us play wherever we go. I feel very good about us going forward in the playoffs.”

Score by innings:

Nash Central 060 001 1 8

North Johnston 003 002 0 5

WP-Tucker Batten 1 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO. LP-Hunter Robinson 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 SO.

LEADING HITTERS — North Johnston: Seth Coates 2-4, 2 RBIs; Dylan Pitts 1-4, RBI; Ty Narron 3-3, RBI. Nash Central: Scott Henry 1-2, RBI; Tresten Warren 2-3, RBI; Drifton Padgett 1-2, RBI; Chandler Padgett 2-4, RBI; Zach Vaughan 3-4, RBI.