Corinth Holders relaxed, feeling no pressure heading into state championship series

Last Saturday, in front of a capacity crowd, the Corinth Holders baseball team punched their ticket to the NCHSAA 4A finals with a 6-2 win over Holly Springs.

Since then the Pirates have just had to wait. On Friday (5 p.m., UNC-Greensboro), Corinth Holders (23-6) will take on Mooresville (22-9) in Game 1 of a three-game series for the state title.

Since the season started the Pirates have played 16 straight weeks of baseball, sometimes with multiple games in one week. In the playoffs they outscored their opponents 29-6 before Game 2 of the East Regional, when they surrendered five runs to Holly Springs. Two days later they recovered, beating the Golden Hawks, 6-2, to make it to the state finals.

It’s been one heck of a run for Corinth Holders, in just its second season as a 4A school. Ideally, when teams have it going like the Pirates, some coaches wish they could play immediately instead of wait almost a week. Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver appreciates the break to give his players a chance to regroup.

“Sometimes you start and get to playing so fast and get in a rhythm you don’t get a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy it,” Weaver said. “Right now our players are able to take a breath and kind of take in the moment a little bit.”

Weaver said his group, with three seniors and 10 juniors, is about as relaxed a group that he’s ever coached. At a recent practice, for example, everything was normal, Weaver explained, saying you would never be able to tell they were playing for a state title this weekend.

“Sometimes it’s kind of strange,” he added.

But strange is good. It means the team is relaxed and not letting the moment get too big. Outsiders would say it is. Weaver told his team that only one Johnston County school in their lifetime has had a chance to play for a state baseball title.

During a group huddle after a recent practice said it was just an honor to play for a championship, and Weaver agreed.

“Sure we would like to win it,” Weaver said, “but at the same time just playing for it speaks volumes about the work that they’ve put in and the kind of year that they’ve had.”

It was during preseason workouts in the fall when Weaver realized this group was special. They had some pieces in place that he said took them from being “a solid ball club to a good one.”

Senior pitcher Tyler Stufano and juniors Ty Cummings and Tanner Smith are all committed to play college baseball, the type of pieces Weaver spoke of. The Pirates put together a nine-game win streak during the middle of the season and were hitting their stride by the time the playoffs arrived.

As a No. 3 seed the Pirates rolled into Durham and blanked No. 2 seed Jordan, 3-0, and shut out Holly Springs at home, 2-0, in Game 1 of their three-game series.

When the Golden Hawks tied the series at one, Weaver told his players not to worry, then he sat back and watched how they would handle the adversity staring them in their faces. He wanted them to embrace it head on.

Before the team hosted Holly Springs in the deciding Game 3, he laid out a scenario for them, quizzing the team how if he would have told them in October they would be hosting a Game 3 with a East Region title on the line, how many of them would have taken that?

“There were smiles and they said ‘coach we would have taken that,’” Weaver said. “The reality was that’s the situation we were in. There was no panic from our guys at all.”

Weaver isn’t worried about his team feeling pressure at all, and if they are feeling some, they haven’t shown it at practice this week. Starting back in the fall, Weaver said this team has handled everything the coaching staff threw at them and their all-business approach during preseason workouts, has gotten them through a tough schedule and put them in position to make history.

“Since the beginning of the year they were even keel; no highs, no lows,” Weaver said. “They are enjoying themselves right now and that’s what it’s all about.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.