Crusaders romp to CCC title
Grace Christian won the Carolina Christian Conference Tournament championship Friday night with a 7-1 win over top-seeded Cape Fear Christian. The Crusaders won the title avenging regular-season losses to CCC rivals on back-to-back nights and did so with convincing victories.
In Thursday night’s semifinal against tournament host Wayne Christian, the Crusaders turned around a 7-4 loss with an 11-3 win.
Wayne Christian led 3-0 through two frames before the Crusader offense got rolling. Grace Christian scored two or more runs in four of the last five innings. The bottom part of the Crusader lineup came up big, scoring eight of the 11 runs.
Nathan Holt went 4-for-4 with a double, a triple and three runs.
Aaron Ayers shut down Wayne Christian through the last six innings and pitched a complete game. He allowed two hits in the last six innings and struck out five for the night.
Friday’s championship game was a rematch of a 2-1 Cape Fear Christian win at Grace Christian in early April. Cape Fear Christian was undefeated in CCC play and is ranked No. 2 in the NCISAA 1A state rankings.
This time, the Crusaders didn’t wait around to get going at the plate. Grace Christian scored five runs in the first two innings. Shane Farnsworth led the Crusaders at the plate going 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Micah Welborn, who earned the tournament MVP honor, pitched a three-hit complete game, giving up no earned runs and getting nine strikeouts.
Ayers, Holt and Montgomery Kirby joined Welborn on the All-Tournament Team. Grace Christian won its three tourney games by a 35-4 combined score.
The Crusaders claim their first CCC tournament title in their second season in the conference. The CCC championship gives the Crusaders, already ranked No. 4 in NCISAA 1A, an automatic bid to the NCISAA State Tournament. The seedings will be announced Sunday night.
“Out team has really matured over the course of the season and is peaking at the right time,” said Grace Christian head coach Jeff Ayers. “All the guys on the team are contributing on both offense and defense.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch these guys grow as a team and get better throughout the season,” Ayers said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the effort they’re all giving.”