After dropping a one-run game to the Wildcats six days ago for its only loss at home this season, the Topsail baseball team avenged the setback with a 2-1 victory on Thursday night to clinch the Mideastern Conference Tournament title.
The Pirates improved to 23-2 overall and will receive a favorable seed heading into next week’s 3A state playoffs. New Hanover dropped to 17-8 on the year and await its position within the 4A bracket.
“We feel like we have a good lineup top to bottom and [Trey] Croom is a good pitcher,” said Topsail Coach Granville Gehris. “He mixes it up well and this was a playoff type game for us. It was a great test and tune up for us to see us comeback and get the win.”
Bryce Cota turned in one of his best performances of the season as the lefty allowed just one run on three hits with four strikeouts and four walks in a complete game effort. Sophomore Sam Hall delivered a two-RBI single to provide enough breathing room for his teammate to operate on the hill.
“Bryce was dialed in and consistent tonight,” said Gehris. “Last year Sam [Hall] played well in the regional finals and we talked about them being the future of Topsail baseball. While we do have a lot of seniors on our team, they showed tonight we have a great younger core and we needed them big.”
Topsail wasted no time to get on the board after Danny Wilson drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the first, which was followed by a base hit up the middle by Jake Madole. Clark Cota advanced the runners 90 feet on a chopper to third and Hall took a 1-2 pitch with two outs through the right side to drive in a pair of runs to make it 2-0 after one.
The two-run cushion was all Bryce Cota needed as the junior southpaw used just five pitches to work out of the second before New Hanover scratched one across in the third.
Burke Estes reached base on an infield single to start the frame and eventually scored on a wild-pitch later in the inning.
The Wildcats were able to get just one more runner into scoring position when Max Johnson led off the sixth with a base hit, but Cota bulldogged his way through and picked up a key strikeout to get out of the jam after a ground ball to Chase Riker at second for the second out.
“It feels great to be able to get the win after that loss the other day,” said Bryce Cota. “They’re a great team and can hit the ball. All I tried to do was pitch to contact and let them put it in play for our defense.”
Of the 21 outs recorded, Cota induced 12 ground ball outs as the left-handed hurler got back-to-back strikeouts to close out the fifth.
Hall finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate, while Wilson went 1-for-1 with a pair of walks and run scored. Chase Thompson also had two hits for the Pirates.
“Really I was just trying to stay back on the ball and see it the way through on the RBI single,” said Hall. “With two strikes I just tried to make contact and didn’t care where it went and was able to get it through the hole.
“The older guys on the team really look out for me and I owe it to them to get the job done and just go out there and make plays.”
Croom got the loss as the senior pitcher surrendered just two runs on seven hits and four strikeouts for the Wildcats.
As the Pirates get ready to defend its 3A state title, Topsail will look to Bryce Cota to help carry the pitching staff with his older brother Clark Cota relegated to designated hitter because of an arm injury that will sideline the senior for the rest of the season.
“I feel like this game really helped me with finding a bit of a groove heading into the playoffs,” said Bryce Cota. “With Clark being out I know I’m going to need to step up, and with a number of guys on the team who can throw, it’ll help me understand that if I don’t have my best stuff my teammates will pick me up.”
West Brunswick 8 Topsail 4
With the game tied at four in the top of the ninth, Hayley Labelle drilled a three-run, line-drive home run to highlight a four-run inning to lead West Brunswick in an 8-4 win over Topsail on Thursday night.
The Trojans erupted for three runs in their first at-bat thanks to a two-run shot by McKenzie Benton before the Pirates responded to make it a one-run deficit after one inning of play.
As the game moved into the bottom of the sixth, Keri White doubled for Topsail and Victoria Elder brought in her teammate with a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Benton put West Brunswick back in front on an RBI fly out before White made it 4-4 on a run scoring ground ball in the bottom of the eighth.
Topsail (16-6) finished the year as the Mideastern Conference regular season champions and will earn the higher seed heading into the 3A tournament. The Trojans improved to 18-5 overall.
Hoggard 9 South Brunswick 0
Hoggard clinched the Mideastern Conference title with a 9-0 shutout over South Brunswick on Thursday. The Vikings improved to 11-0-1 in league play and 17-2-2 overall.
New Hanover 3 Topsail 0
The Wildcats finished the regular season with an 8-4 record in conference and 13-6 overall.
NHHS: Goals- Sally Sloan (2); Abbey Campbell; Assists: L.B. Shapiro; Mary Grace Kiernan; Saves: Emily Leister (1)