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GOLDEN LEAF INVITATIONAL

Freedom, West Johnston engage in battle of ranked teams

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Varsity baseball teams from West Johnston of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A ranks and Fayetteville Freedom Christian of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A division stepped onto the Hunt High diamond Saturday afternoon for their opening-round encounter in the annual Golden Leaf Invitational with 30 combined wins.

Freedom was not only riding a 14-game winning streak but had outscored its opposition 205-26.

Yet, the two state-ranked nines, together, managed just one run and West Johnston plated it in the third inning and hung on, 1-0.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 13 by MaxPreps.com among the state’s 3-A teams, vaulted to 16-4. Freedom, No. 1 in NCISAA 2-A, possessed a 15-2 record going into Saturday night’s clash against Rocky Mount Faith Christian, No. 2 in 2-A, in Fleming Stadium (Faith Christian won 8-3).

West Johnston scored in the third when Payton Richards singled and darted home all the way from second base on Jacob Siemen’s infield hit.

In the meantime, Wildcats right-hander Ryan Kennedy blanked Freedom on one hit through six innings.

The Fayetteville team threatened in the top of the seventh, but was jolted when, with one out, Seth Tolar was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Blake Stafford had singled in front of Tolar.

With two outs, Brandon Stephenson drew a walk. With runners at first and third, Chase Moore relieved Kennedy and retired pinch hitter Garner Johnson on a soft liner  that Moore snared.

The Wildcats were denied a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Freedom left fielder Jonathan Bloomer’s twisting, leaping catch robbed Connor Hill of a home run.

SUPERMAN FEAT

Saturday’s “Superman” feat was registered in 1-A Rosewood’s 13-3 shellacking of 2-A Nash Central by Rosewood’s Tanner Capps.

Capps sparked the Golden Eagles in the early going with a two-run home run — a blast that traveled over 400 feet and cleared the fence in straight-away center field.

Leading 4-3, Rosewood exploded for nine unanswered runs.

Returning to Golden Leaf competition didn’t shake tough-luck fortunes for 2018 champion Charles B. Aycock, a 3-A member of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

Leading 2-1, the Golden Falcons (3-17) yielded three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and bowed 4-2 to Rocky Mount (15-5) of the 3-A Big East Conference. All three of Aycock’s hits were doubles with Carson Gipson belting two in three at-bats while Clay Matthews had an RBI double.

Sophomore Seth Coates tossed a three-hit shutout as North Johnston blanked Northern Nash 6-0 on Saturday afternoon at Hunt's Sid Boyette Field. Pearce Avery was 2 for 3 with an RBI to lead the Panthers (17-1) at the plate.

IMPROVISED SCHEDULE

The postponement of games Saturday due to heavy rains Friday created a scheduling problem. Eastern Christian home school team from Wilmington was supposed to play Faith Christian of Rocky Mount at 1:30 p.m. at Farmville Central High but the games there were delayed while work was done to get the field in playing condition.

The same thing happened at Fike, with the scheduled 1 p.m. start for the Golden Demons’ game against Cardinal Gibbons of Raleigh pushed back to 2:30 p.m. Cardinal Gibbons was supposed to play Freedom Christian at 3:45, right after the game against Fike.

Because of the later start, Eastern Christian notified Golden Leaf officials that it would only have seven players available Saturday and would not make the trip to Wilson. Meanwhile, Gibbons was unable to play the later game either.

So Faith Christian and Freedom Christian, which were originally not scheduled to play one another, took the diamond at Fleming for the nightcap. Eastern Christian and Cardinal Gibbons will only have two games in the tournament and the schedule for Monday and Tuesday is unchanged with Eastern Christian playing North Johnston on Monday and Rosewood on Tuesday and Gibbons facing Nash Central on Monday.

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