It took extra innings, but Edenton Holmes grabbed a 1-0 series lead over South Granville in the N.C. High School Athletic Association East Regional Finals with a 3-1 victory on the road Thursday night.
The game-winning hit came courtesy of Edenton Holmes senior Patrick Downum, who blasted a two strike pitch over the right field wall for a two-run home run in the top of the eighth.
“I wasn’t trying to do it,” said Downum. “But things happen when you keep it simple.”
Downum, who drove in all three Aces runs, said he knew it was gone about ten steps out of the batters box. Reliever Holden Laws put two strikes on Downum, but had to come out of the game after throwing 30 pitchers in order to start tomorrow. South Granville head coach Jeff Tate turned to Clay Walters to finish off Downum, but Walters left a breaking ball hanging for Downum to drive.
“I knew it was going to be an off-speed pitch because they threw me a fastball away to set me up,” said Downum. “He’d already thrown me that slider/curveball, so I knew what to look for.”
Tate didn’t second guess the decision to pull Laws, saying, “It was a 1-1 games, but if he threw another pitch, he couldn’t throw tomorrow. We went to Clay and he left a pitch up. (Downum) ran into it.
If we left Holden go and we lose the game, Holden is done for tomorrow. We had to save him.”
Laws will start Friday’s game two at Edenton against Thursday’s hero, Downum.
South Granville tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a RBI double by Tucker Brown. With only one out, the Vikings had a chance to win it, but Luke Bradshaw grounded out to first and Laws struck out.
South Granville starter Justin Bullock gave his team every chance to win, going six inning and striking out 12. He gave up back-to-back singles to Ben Ward and Downum in the fourth, leading to Edenton’s only run in regulation.
“He was typical Justin,” said Tate. “He strikes out ten or more batters every day out, that doesn’t surprise. I just hate that we can’t get him run support.”
The Vikings left ten runners on base. Edenton starter Dylan Patrick matched Bullock on the mound, striking out ten, giving up only one hit, and no runs. However, he did walk seven batters, leading to ample scoring opportunities for South Granville.
“We’ve got to find a way to come up with hits,” said Tate. “Two runs could have won the game and we couldn’t find a way to scratch anything across. Their pitcher pitched a great game, but we have to find a way tomorrow to score runs.”