Baseball: Sixth inning rally sparks New Hanover comeback in 4A playoffs is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

The New Hanover baseball team was able to score in just about every way possible during a six-run sixth inning on Friday night as the Wildcats pulled out a 6-5 come-from-behind victory against No. 26 Panther Creek at Buck Hardee Field.

With the win, No. 23 New Hanover improved to 17-7 overall and advance to the third round of the 4A state playoffs. Meanwhile, the Catamounts fell to 14-12 in the season-ending setback.

Kyle Smith rounds third after two-run home run. Photos by Hannah Leyva.
Kyle Smith rounds third after a two-run home run. Photos by Hannah Leyva.

“The whole concept of playing 21 outs as hard as you know how is a tough sell at this age,” said New Hanover Coach Richard Foy. “All high school kids ebb and flow with the game, but they did a great job of playing for 21 outs tonight.”

Trailing by three moving into the decisive frame, New Hanover sent nine hitters to the plate and freshman Kyle Smith capped the rally with a two-run home run down the right field line to put the Wildcats in front 6-3. After a bases loaded balk put New Hanover on the board, a throwing error during a failed pickoff attempt brought the home team to within one and Lambert Long successfully laid down a squeeze bunt to tie the game. Burke Estes followed with a double the other way to score the go ahead run to set the stage for Smith, who finished 2-for-4 at the plate after the round tripper.

The Wildcats plated six runs on four hits and one error in the sixth. Fulton Hill smacked an extra base hit to right-center to aid the effort and Brett Kemp laid down a sacrifice bunt.

“A lot of times offensively it’s about getting your guys in the right situation,” Foy said. “Lambert is up during the squeeze after being ahead in the count. [Alex] Sniffen getting to lead off the inning and hits the ball up the middle and gets the party started. Tonight, just kind of worked out to have guys in good spots for them.”

Burke Estes.
Burke Estes.

Adam Pecoraro battled for six plus innings on the mound, allowing five runs – four earned – on seven hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. However, the three-run cushion for the Wildcats was short-lived as the Catamounts would not go quietly. Back-to-back doubles after a leadoff single put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out in their final at-bat, but Caleb Bishop recorded the final three outs of the contest for his second save of the season.

Estes, Smith and Blake Walston collected multi-hit games in the effort, while Panther Creek left nine runners on base, including the game tying run 90 feet away as Bishop recorded the final out on a grounder to first.

No. 23 New Hanover survived the second round playoff test and look to continue their run through the 4A tournament against the winner of No. 2 D.H. Conly/No. 15 Holly Springs.

Box score                               R  H  E

Panther Creek  010 020 2       5   8    1

New Hanover   000 006 X      6   9    2

WP: Adam Pecoraro (6-2)   LP: Chris Sullivan   Sv: Caleb Bishop (2)