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With an additional player for Tuesday evening’s all-important North Carolina Christian Schools Association 2-A East Region varsity baseball showdown, Wilson Christian’s “Dirty Dozen” became the baker’s dozen.
With the addition of Jackson Lewis up from the junior varsity, the 13-member Chargers of veteran head coach Ty Bissett left no doubt about East Region supremacy with a 12-2 Senior Night triumph on the Turnage Athletic Complex diamond.
Trailing 2-0 going into the bottom of the third inning, Wilson Christian, the reigning NCCSA 2-A champion, poured it on with 12 unanswered runs. WCA shelled a pair of Patriots right-handed pitchers for 13 hits and forced implementation of the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth.
The Chargers walked off on winning pitcher Brice Murray’s two-run double with two outs in the fifth.
“That’s the way we play,” exclaimed Bissett. “That’s why we’re the ‘Dirty Dozen.’ I knew, if we kept whittling away, kept fighting, stay focused and not let the first two innings dictate the game, we would start hitting the ball.”
A surprising, early celebration awaited seniors Adrian DeHart, Jackson Hoskins, Murray, Zach Denmark and Bryce Hughes on their night.
“I didn’t really expect (the mercy rule to be enforced,” commented DeHart, who slammed three hits in four at-bats and drove in two runs. “But I knew we had it in us. We kept hitting the ball and, although we were not getting hits at the start, they started landing in the right places.
“This is probably the best (Senior Night) I could ever imagine. We expected a little competition; Wilmington always has a good team. But we came out and took care of business.”
The teams entered undefeated in the region at 8-0. The 10th consecutive win propelled the Chargers to 14-3 and the top seed in the East for the upcoming NCCSA 2-A playoffs while Wilmington plunged to 12-5.
“We made a couple of mistakes,” reviewed Patriots head coach Donny Seals. “We got down on ourselves and let things happen. We didn’t have enough self-discipline to regain our composure. Things got out of control.”
Murray, a senior right-hander, worked in plenty of traffic in throwing 92 pitches in five innings. However, he allowed but four hits and one earned run in posting his fourth win against two losses. Murray walked five and struck out six.
Bissett praised Murray’s performance, considering he had not pitched in two weeks.
“He did amazing,” DeHart added “He pitched a great game.”
The Chargers didn’t exactly solve Patriots starting pitcher Mason Myhand, a lanky freshman right-hander, with two runs in the third that tied the score at 2-2.
But WCA chased Myhand in the five-run fourth — when catcher Dylan Farmer and third baseman Will Shearin each singled. Center fielder DeHart, second baseman Max Holland and eighth-grade designated hitter Hunter Lewis singled in succession against Patriots reliever Zack Burke.
Shortstop Gabe Barnes, DeHart and Lewis each singled in the fifth. The game ended with back-to-back doubles from Farmer and Murray.
Bissett was encouraged although the Chargers left the bases loaded in the first. He knew the hits were coming. And he detected a crack in the Patriots’ composure in the fourth.
“That will happen to you when you are used to winning,” Bissett reasoned. “The pressure gets to you. But we will either see them in the (state) semifinals or championship. We’re not done, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. These seniors have been great for the program.”
The first postseason step for WCA in repeating as the state champion comes Friday at home against the No. 4 representative from District 4.
“They’re a good team,” Wilmington’s Seals said of the Chargers. “They are well-coached and well-disciplined. It looks like they have played together for a while and know what each other is doing.
“But we have the type of team that can beat them. They pitched their No. 1 today and we pitched our No. 3. We’ve got a plan. We will absolutely see them again.”
Score by innings:
Wilmington 101 00 — 2
WCA 002 55 — 12
WP-Brice Murray (4-2) 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO. LP-Mason Myhand (2-1) 3 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 Bb, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wilmington Christian: Bryce Bordeaux 2-2, Zane Bloom 1-1, R; Haden Naylor 1-2, RBI; Wilson Christian: Adrian DeHart 3-4, 2 RBI; Dylan Farmer 3-4, RBI; Max Holland 2-4, 2 RBI; Hunter Lewis 2-3, Brice Murray 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Gabe Barnes 1-3, Will Shearin 1-3.