May. 09, 2014 @ 11:28 PM

In an odd twist of fate Orange finished its season undefeated in conference play and soared to a 20-win milestone in unfamiliar territory — at home.

Buoyed by a pair of early big innings and fighting off a late-rally by cross-town rival Cedar Ridge, Orange won 10-6 Friday night during a senior night game that ended two straight months of road games.

“I’m sure there was a little bit of nervousness. We played 20 straight road games, and so they’re back here and they’re excited to be back on the field for this last home game,” said Panthers coach Dean Dease.

“We played Feb. 28 here and March 5, and been on the road since after the [March 6] ice storm, so it wasn’t quite the home opener,” Dease said. The weight of the ice on the backstop netting caused the wooden poles to snap, crushing the backstop and sections of the brick backstop wall.

“It just was a disaster. You couldn’t play at all,” Dease said.

Dease said he challenged his team midway through the conference schedule to go undefeated, and they reminded him Friday that they met his goal, as well as getting the 20th victory.

“In high school baseball a 20-win season is pretty important. It’s like in the college ranks when you get (30) wins. It’s just a magic number,” Dease said.

“You always want to go undefeated in conference. That’s a humongous accomplishment to go along with the 20 wins,” said senior pitcher Jonah Neville, who pitched two innings in relief to help save the game for starter James Cunningham.

“It’s nice having the home crowd back, having the fans stand up with you. That gets you going,” Neville said.

“There’s good talent in this conference, and it meant a lot to us to roll through it and play really well,” said senior second baseman Joe Piscitelli, a three-year starter.

“I think this season we’ve been a really close team. We joke around in the back of the bus to and from games. We’re tight and I think that helps us on the field,” Piscitelli said.

“We know the person behind us has our back, and the pitcher knows he can throw strikes over the plate and the defense is going to be there,” he said. “Offense, if there’s runners on second and third we know somebody’s going to hit them in.”

Piscitelli said the team is “pretty confident” headed into next week’s playoffs. “I don’t want my season to be over any time soon, so hopefully we go all the way.”

Orange jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first when senior center fielder Collin Pope reached first on an error and sophomore catcher Brad Debo powdered a homer to right center field.

Sophomore designated hitter Bryse Wilson walked, senior first baseman Matthew Crabtree was hit by a pitch, junior left fielder Eric Compton reached on an error, scoring Wilson, and junior third baseman Josh Kiehle hit a sacrifice fly to score the other.

Orange scored 6 runs on six hits and an error in the third, knocking Cedar Ridge junior starter Elliott Orlowski and junior reliever Tyler Ennis out of the game.

Wilson reached on error, moved up to second on an overthrow, and Crabtree hit a seeing-eye double down the left field line to score Wilson. Kiehle singled to center to score Crabtree and stole second.

Senior right fielder Adam Gates walked, shortstop Cameron Mehl singled to score Kiehle, and Piscitelli singled through the hole at second scoring Gates and Mehl. Pope singled to short, putting runners on first and second, and Debo singled to center scoring Piscitelli.

After scoring 1 run in the first, and 2 in both the fourth and six innings, Cedar Ridge was trailing 10-5 in the top of the seventh.

The Red Wolves loaded the bases with one out. Senior third baseman Ivan Macias walked, sophomore second baseman Michael Baker hit a flare single to right, and senior shortstop Asher McDonald was hit by a pitch.

Junior right fielder Kyle Young whiffed, and senior center fielder Neil Higgins walked, pushing Macias home and putting tying run at plate, 10-6. But junior left fielder Chris Smith-Burks fanned to end the threat, and the game.

Orange 10, Cedar Ridge 6

Cedar Ridge |100 |202 |1 — 6 |9 |4

Orange |406 |000 |x —10 |7 |1

BATTERIES — Cedar Ridge, Elliot Orlowski (L, 1-1), Tyler Ennis (3), Eli Lamb (3), and Perry Christian. Orange, James Cunningham (W, 4-0), Jonah Neville (5), Brad Debo (7) and Brad Debo, Ben Albaugh.

LEADING HITTERS —Cedar Ridge, Neil Higgins 2-3 (2B), Michael Burroughs 2-4, Michael Baker 2-4, Ivan Macias 1-3 (3B). Orange, Brad Debo 2-4 (HR), Matt Crabtree 1-2 (2B), Josh Kiehle 1-2.

Records — Cedar Ridge 10-14, 6-8 Big Eight 3-A, Orange 20-3, 14-0 Big Eight.