ECH wins PAC-6 No. 2 seed in playoff over No. 3 Northern
East Chapel Hill has snagged the PAC-6’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs and will begin its 4-A postseason run at home.
ECH fought off Northern 5-3 Friday night in a tiebreaker game at Jordan High School, a neutral site. The contest was added to the teams’ schedules when Northern failed to hang on to a 6-2 lead at Riverside on Thursday.
Riverside didn’t lose a game in the PAC-6 and will be the conference’s top seed in the playoffs. Northern will begin the postseason on the road as the league’s No. 3 seed.
Northern coach Greg Pruitt said his Knights probably will have to play the No. 1 seed from the Cap Eight, which is the price paid for not handling business.
Pruitt said he wasn’t sure who Northern would play next week.
Some of the players and coaches from Raleigh’s Leesville Road, a Cap Eight team, watched the Wildcats slap the ball around the diamond for four runs on six hits in the top of the second inning. It was a rough start for Northern pitcher Griffin Baker, to say the least.
“Early on, we got to Baker,” but he settled in nicely, ECH coach Phil Woodell said.
Baker allowed no more runs after the Wildcats roughed him up in the second.
“He’s resilient. He battles. He wants to be out there. He fights,” Pruitt said. “Sometimes he has a little slow start. I wasn’t ready to take him out until that seventh inning, and the only reason I was even wanting to take him out was the pitch count. I did not want to run the risk of injuring his arm.”
Northern will need both Baker’s and Adam Riddle’s arms in the state playoffs, Pruitt said.
Riddle started and pitched 5-2/3 innings Thursday during the loss at Riverside.
Woodell said all of the Knights will be ready for the playoffs.
“That team right there has come as far as any team in one season that I’ve ever seen,” Woodell said. “Those young guys have grown up.”
Riverside coach Doug Simmons talked about the bright future for the young Knights, and Pruitt said he can accept that, the now-or-never nature of the playoffs notwithstanding.
“I looked at this season from the get-go that it was going to be a learning process, that if you’re going to run those young guys out there, you’re probably going to take some lumps,” Pruitt said. “But you know that they’re going to get better every day, because they’re no longer freshmen. It’s the end of the year. They’re not freshman anymore.”
On Thursday, Northern’s batters were facing pitches coming at them at around 87 miles per hour, and the Knights hit them hard, Pruitt said.
But the stuff coming from the mound on Friday was slower, and Northern’s hitters were out front on those pitches, said Pruitt, making the point that the Knights will get better with that sort of thing over time.
“All these young guys, they’re not used to losing,” Pruitt said, referring to the strong tradition of winning that many of them were part of at Carrington Middle School. “We’ve grown up. We’re playing better.”
ECH played its way out of a rough patch earlier in the season and has found a nice groove just in time for the playoffs, Woodell said.
“We get to play a home game (in the playoffs). There’s only been three of those in the history of East Chapel Hill. I’ve been to all three of them,” Woodell said. “That’s big for our guys.”
East Chapel Hill 5, Northern 3
(PAC-6 seeding playoff game)
East Chapel Hill 140 000 0 — 5 8 1
Northern 010 002 x — 3 3 1
BATTERIES — ECH, John Blue (W), Sean Moore (S,7th) and Josh Baldwin. Northern, Griffin Baker (L) and Spencer Smith.
LEADING HITTERS — ECH, Bennett Byerley 2-4 (2B, RBI), Moore 2-4 (2B), John Page 1-4 (2 RBI). Northern, Smith 1-3 (3B, RBI), Pete Vurnakes 1-3, Baker 1-3 (RBI).
Records — ECH 15-7, 7-4 PAC-6. Northern, 9-14, 6-5 PAC-6.
NOTES — East Chapel Hill wins PAC-6 No. 2 seed Tuesday’s playoffs. Northern is No. 3 seed in playoffs.