Trader Flora went 2-for-4 at the plate with a run batted in and Sam Luchansky recorded the final seven outs of the ballgame to earn his fourth save as Topsail extended its win streak to 11 straight Tuesday night following a 5-2 victory over New Hanover at Legion Stadium.
The Pirates improved to 6-1 atop the Mideastern Conference standings and 16-1 overall, while the Wildcats dropped to 5-3 in league play and 12-5 on the year.
“The thing I just keep reiterating to the kids is that we’ve played a really tough schedule so it shouldn’t matter who we play,” said Topsail Coach Granville Gehris. “We just need to go out there win each pitch and hustle. We did a couple things tonight I didn’t like and I’m going to get on some of the guys about that. We have to clean up some things and there’s always stuff to work on.”
Eight of the nine Topsail starters had one hit and Flora delivered an RBI single as part of a four run third inning. The Pirates scored all four of their runs with two outs in the frame.
Clark Cota lined a 2-1 pitch down the left field line to score Luchansky in the top of the first to put Topsail in front 1-0, but New Hanover loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning on a pair of walks and fielder’s choice before Cota picked up a strikeout to get out of the jam.
The Wildcats would leave the bases full again in the fifth when Luchansky came on in relief to get a called strike three.
“Sam’s been solid all year for us in the backend of the bullpen,” said Flora. “I don’t think he’s blown a save all season. Clark battled tonight and put in another strong performance to put us in a position to win the game.”
After a 31 pitch first inning, Cota settled down to retire nine straight New Hanover hitters before Adam Pecoraro broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out infield single in the fourth. The senior right-handed hurler used 11 pitches to get out of the second and retired the top of the Wildcats lineup in order on nine pitches in the third.
The Pirates grabbed control of the ballgame by sending 10 batters to the plate in the four run third after Ward Coleman made a diving stop at the hot corner to retire Danny Wilson to lead off the inning.
With Luchansky on second and two outs after the senior doubled to left, Caleb Bishop was one strike away from working out of trouble when Flora took a 1-2 pitch through the six-hole for a 2-0 advantage. Flora advanced to second on the throw home and Jake Madole followed with a two-strike RBI extra base hit. Madole hustled into second for the run scoring double and a pair of infield hits later in the inning by Chase Thompson and Chase Riker brought in two more runs to give Topsail a 5-0 cushion.
“We’re a team that’s going to go out there and scrap,” said Flora. “We’ve faced some good teams this year and feel like we’re playing some really good baseball right now.”
New Hanover chased Cota from the game in the fifth after Lambert Long hit a humpback liner to lead off the inning. Burke Estes and Trey Croom walked as Long ruined the shutout after crossing the plate on a wild-pitch. After another free pass was issued to Max Johnson, Fulton Hill was hit by pitch to close the Wildcats deficit to three.
That was the final batter Cota faced as Luchansky came in to record the strikeout and also started the front end of a 1-6-3 double play in the sixth after Max Hildreth drew a leadoff walk.
“It’s very rare to say that in the inning that decided the game you would say you threw too many strikes,” said New Hanover Coach Richard Foy. “We’re trying to go off the plate in those 0-2, 1-2 counts and to their credit, the made us pay when they had two strikes tonight. We load the bases in the first inning and I think a big hit there changes some things.
“If it’s 5-3 you might bunt in that situation in the sixth. At 5-2, we’re thinking we need to get deeper in the inning. At 5-3 you bunt Lambert. At 5-2, you let him hack.”
Cota allowed two runs on two hits in 4.2 innings, with five walks and four strikeouts to record the win. Bishop was saddled with the loss after giving up five runs on eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Topsail and Hoggard square off on Friday, April 17, while the Wildcats get back on the diamond against Whiteville on Thursday, April 16.
Box score R H E
Topsail 104 000 0 5 9 0
NHHS 000 020 0 2 3 1
WP: Clark Cota LP: Caleb Bishop Save: Sam Luchansky