Triton's rally ends Cavalier season
Triton rallied from a 6-0 hole, taking the lead in a sudden two-inning span, and advanced through the first round the NCHSAA 3A State baseball tournament with a 7-6 victory over Southern Lee Friday night.
The Cavaliers (20-8) finish their all-time winningest season in program history and as the Cape Fear Valley co-champs, but none of that was consolation after the Hawks (19-8) rallied, then held the Cavaliers in the sixth and seventh frames. Going back to the last game of the regular season, the Cavs, who had hopes of advancing past where they did last season in the state tourney - the third round - went 1-4 to finish the season.
The first four frames for the Cavs were shades of last May's two state tournament wins. The Cavaliers got runners on, found ways to score those runners and got sound pitching.
Leadoff hitter Jared Kehagias opened the game with a single into center. He stole second, moved to third on a fielder's choice and scored on Cullen Boyette's single.
After Cavalier starting pitcher Derek Jackson, who signed with North Carolina A&T earlier in the week, retired the Hawks in the first, the Cavs added another run, with Kehagias scoring from third on an errant pickoff throw, from Triton pitcher Brett McLamb to, and past, second base.
The Cavs manufactured another run in the third. Jackson was hit by a pitch starting the Southern third. The Cavs loaded the bases with no outs and Connor Showalter's grounder scored Jackson, though that was the end of the Cavalier threat.
In the fourth, the Cavs drove McLamb from the mound as Kehagias and Freddy McCollum singled. Now facing Hawk senior Dillon Stewart on the mound, Ethan Helsman singled in a run and Jackson singled in a run, making it 6-0 Cavaliers.
After Jackson's hit, Stewart went on to retire 12 of the last 13 Cavaliers he faced.
The six Cavalier tallies could well have been plenty of offense to stand up but a pair of Cavalier errors led directly to four unearned runs in a five-run Hawk fourth.
With one down, Tanner Ferguson doubled and Matthew Webb was hit by a pitch. The Hawks loaded the bases with two out when Jackson threw wildly on a pickoff move to second and two runs scored.
Houston Hamilton singled to keep the line moving and Stewart, Triton's leadoff hitter, singled for an RBI.
With Caleb Gaster coming on to relieve Jackson, Todd Penny's grounder to short looked like it end the frame, leaving the Cavs ahead 6-3, but a throw in the dirt by Kehagias bounced to the fence and two Hawks scored.
Triton completed the comeback with its next at-bats. McLamb walked and Austin Lee singled to start the frame. The Hawks tied the game on Webb's groundout to short and Taylor Emory's two-out double down the line in left made it 7-6 Hawks.
Stewart got the win, going the last 4.0 innings, but it wasn't without one piece of outstanding defensive help.
Leading off the Cavalier seventh, Connor Gaines lined a shot to the left-center field gap. Hawk center fielder Isiah McNeill, a defense-only player, sprinted down the liner and made a backhanded, head-high snare on the full run saving an extra-base hit.
Stewart gave up two hits and one run while striking out four. At the plate, Stewart had a 3-for-4 night with a run and an RBI.
Kehagias went 3-for-3 with three runs for the Cavs. McCollum went 2-for-3 with a run and Boyette went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Triton, the No. 2 seed from the Eastern Carolina, advances to the second round and a game at Mid-State champion Western Alamance (21-5) slated for Tuesday.