Rosewood rebounded from a 4-0 deficit early and held on for a 7-6 win over Voyager Academy Friday night to earn a spot in the 1A East final of the N.C. High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs next week.
The Eagles (23-4) will play Whiteville in a best-of-three series for the right to play in the state championship. The regional champion will match-up with either North Stanly or Murphy.
The Vikings, who played on Monday night, were essentially without a bullpen due to the new national mandate for each state to have a pitch count policy. Rosewood roughed up starter Michael Jones with a six-run fifth inning to erase a 4-1 hole.
Voyager Academy coach Pete Shankle said he considered a pitching change in the fourth when Jones began struggling with his breaking balls, but his only eligible hurler was an untested freshman.
“I had nothing left,” Shankle said following the game. “All they had to do was sit on the fastball.”
Rosewood’s Stalen Massengill began the rally with a leadoff single and a stolen base. Will Albert doubled and Chance Howard cleared the bases with a single. After a hit batter and a single by Kolby Harris, Tucker Chapin hit a bases-clearing triple to give the Eagles the lead. Chapin later scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-4.
“(Stalen) does a good job of getting on base,” said Rosewood coach Jason King. “If you make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay for it with his wheels and once he gets on base he’s a threat to take a bag, so that’s important for us. Then we strung together some hits and ran the bases well.”
The Vikings (17-6) put together a rally in the top of the seventh after Aaron Beasley reached base on an error followed by a single by Kendall Vincent. A hit batter later, the bases were loaded for Brenton Fisher, who drew a walk to put the tying run on second base.
Vincent scored on a wild pitch to bring Voyager Academy within one, but reliever Boone Moody struck out two batters to strand the tying run and close out the 7-6 win.
The seven runs were the first the Vikings had given up since the regular season.
“We’re one of the top 1A teams in the state every year,” Shankle said. “Tonight we just didn’t get the hits. They were down 4-1 and they showed class by coming back. They got the big hits and closed us out.”
Rosewood seniors get second shot at Whiteville
King is taking the Eagles to the East Final for the second time since 2014, when they were swept by Whiteville. The Wolfpack advanced to the state championship where they took two of three from East Surry to win the title at Five County Stadium in Zebulon.
King said he is counting on the postseason experience of Boone Moody, Derek Neal and Tanner Bradley, who were on that team, to avenge that season-ending loss to Whiteville when they meet next week.
Moody has been the Eagles’ closer, coming in late in the game and not only getting out of jams, but striking out batters to strand runners.
King said if his team is going to avenge the season-ending sweep of three seasons ago they’ll need to get the bats going.
“We’ve got to hit the ball well,” he said. “We’ve been making good adjustments at the plate. We’ve just got to continue to do that. Every game is a little bit different.”