After seeing limited time on the mound last season, Payton Rice solidified his spot atop the Topsail rotation on Friday night as the right-handed hurler delivered a complete game shutout for the Pirates in a 2-0 win against New Hanover at Legion Stadium.
Adam Pecoraro matched Rice frame-by-frame in the pitchers’ duel, with the only difference being a two-run single by Aaron Beach in the second that gave Topsail a 2-0 mark in conference.
“You couldn’t ask for much more than what we got tonight out of Payton,” said Topsail Interim Coach Chris Blake. “He’s really worked this offseason to take over as our number one on the staff. It’s always nice to come out with a win even when you don’t swing it like you could.”
Rice filled the zone with first-pitch strikes, throwing 79 total pitches in the effort. He moved to 3-0 on the hill, scattering three hits and three walks. The senior pitched to contact early in the ball game, utilizing his defense to make the plays.
Just two of the seven New Hanover leadoff hitters got on, allowing only one runner to reach scoring position. Lambert Long singled to start the sixth for the Wildcats, but Sam Hall flashed some leather at shortstop with a diving grab to start a 6-4-3 double play. Rice struck out the side in the seventh to preserve the clean sheet. He fanned five and wiggled out of his biggest jam by getting a fly out to Cameron Kimrey in right field after walking back-to-back hitters with nobody on and two outs in the first.
“I just went out determined and ready to throw strikes,” Rice added. “I was confident in my defense and they backed me up. They made all the plays. You’ve got to depend on your team. It’s good to start off conference 2-0 and huge to get one on the road.”
The Pirates scored two runs on three hits in the decisive frame. Colby Emmertz worked a one-out walk and Chase Riker executed the hit and run with a single to center to put runners on the corners. Riker moved to second on the play once the ball was mishandled and thrown to the cutoff man. With a 1-0 count, Beach lined a 2 RBI base knock to give Rice the run support needed to grab the win.
Pecoraro was saddled with the loss as New Hanover dropped to 1-1 in league play and 6-1 on the year. He gave up two runs – both earned – on six hits, with one walk and five strikeouts.
Topsail improved to 6-1 overall and return to the diamond at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI) in Cary for the 16-team single elimination tournament beginning on Wednesday, March 23.
New Hanover (1-1, 6-1) saw its six-game winning streak to start the spring come to an end. The Wildcats look to get back in the win column beginning on March 21 when they open play at Ashley High School’s annual spring break tournament.
West Brunswick 10 Laney 2
West Brunswick kept pace atop league play on Friday night as the Trojans had 11 total hits in a 10-2 victory at home against Laney.
Austin Turner went 2-for-3 with two runs and three runs batted in, while Owen McDowell added three hits and two runs scored. Kevin Powers threw six strong innings for West Brunswick. He allowed two runs-one earned-on three hits, with five strikeouts and zero walks. Hunter Asburn fanned the side in one scoreless inning of relief.
Ashburn and Tristan Lewis both hit a double in the win. The Trojans carried a 3-1 advantage into the fourth when West Brunswick plated six runs in the frame. Eight different players had at least one hit for the Trojans, who extended their winning streak to six straight.
West Brunswick moved to 2-0 in conference and 7-1 this season. Laney fell to 0-2 in the division and 3-5 overall.
Hoggard 11 South Brunswick 1
Rob Wilkerson struck out six in four innings of work and Zach Zabriskie drove in five runs to lift Hoggard to its first league win this season as the Vikings cruised to an 11-1 road win at South Brunswick on Friday.
Hoggard rallied for eight runs in the second and took advantage of four miscues to take the victory. The Vikings moved to 1-1 in conference and 6-1 overall.
Providence Day 3 Ashley 0
West Brunswick 6 North Brunswick 0
Topsail 12 New Hanover 1
The Pirates continued to run through conference opponents on Friday night as Topsail pounded 15 hits in a 12-1 victory against New Hanover.
Victoria Elder surrendered one run on two hits with five strikeouts in six innings of work in the circle. Keri White had a team-high three hits, while White, Hunter Bizzell and Christine McLean each had 2 RBI’s.
With the Pirates leading 4-1, Topsail plated eight in the sixth to put the game in check. Topsail moved to 4-0 in the division and 6-0 overall.
West Brunswick 5 Laney 1
Randashia Daniels had two hits and Morgan Beeler put in a strong effort on the stripe for West Brunswick in a 5-1 result at home against Laney on Friday.
Hoggard 3 South Brunswick 0
Morgan Mathis pitched a complete game shutout for Hoggard.
Hoggard 15 South Brunswick 0 (girls)
Hoggard goals- Kendall Goldblumt (2); Lindsey Yelton (2); Grace Whitlow (2); Emma Hall (2);
McKenna Roberts; Madison Kosh; Alyssa Cooke Goals; Yamahjai Lewis; Morgan Lennon;
Laurel Burger; Sydney Beckwith Goals 1
Hoggard 17 South Brunswick 0 (boys)
Hoggard goals- Tucker Brown (4) Gunner Philipp; Luke Frankeny (2);
Alex Burbank; Carson Whitaker (2); William Kandare; Evan Fersinger; Donovan Jones; Pat Kelly; Mitch Trafton; Andy Kotz; Bryce Apel
Assists: Evan Fersinger (3) Gunner Philipp (2); Luke Frankeny (2); Mitch Trafton; Alex Burbank; Matt Stevens; Cullum Crowley (2); Skyler Magsig:; Carson Whitaker; Bryce Apel;
Saves: Morgan Pullen: 1
Laney 15 West Brunswick 0 (boys)
Laney 18 West Brunswick 1 (girls)