No. 3 Hoggard 9 No. 6 Sanderson 0
No.3 Hoggard jumped the gun early on the visiting Sanderson Spartans and never looked back, notching a memorable 9-0 third round victory in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A baseball playoffs on Wednesday night.
The positive result was the 500th career win for longtime Coach Jeep St. Ledger, who was honored after the game. Former players who played for St. Ledger some 30 years ago during his first few seasons as head of the Hoggard program were in attendance along with those who played for him more recently.
“It’s really a credit to these kids,” St. Ledger said. “They’re the reason for this.”
The Vikings plated nine runs on 12 hits behind a well-balanced attacked and nine strikeout, complete game shutout by junior pitcher Rob Wilkerson.
Brad Pennington and Sam Schmidt led off the bottom of the first with a pair of singles, while Connor Simpson drew a walk to load the bases. A double by catcher Matt Suggs drove in the game’s first two runs and a Hunter Gaylord RBI single made it a 3-0 lead. Mike Gans capped the rally with a run scoring double to make it a four-run advantage.
“We’ve got to keep swinging the bat like we have been,” said St. Ledger. “If we do that, we’ll be just fine.”
The Vikings’ hot bats gave Wilkerson a cushion to work off the entire night, but the right-hander worked around five walks in the game, surrendering just one hit in the shutout. Wilkerson wiggled out of trouble in the third after throwing 10 straight pitches out of the strike zone. Noah Almond, the Spartans’ second baseman, laid a nice bunt down the third base side to fill the bases with just one out.
“I really struggled to throw strikes, especially early on,” Wilkerson said. “That lowers your confidence a bit, but I dug that hole myself and I was going to get myself out of it.”
Wilkerson got himself out of that jam by striking out the next batter and getting the designated hitter, Alim McNeill, to fly out to centerfield.
Hoggard hitters, meanwhile, teed off on three different Sanderson pitchers. They finished with five doubles and a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Gans and Suggs finished with two hits and three RBI each. Pennington also had two hits and scored twice, while Wilkerson added one hit, an RBI and one run scored.
The Vikings won their ninth game in a row to move to 21-4 overall. Hoggard will hit the road for the first time this postseason on Friday, May 20 with a fourth round 4A playoff matchup at No. 2 D.H. Conley.
Sanderson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0 1 1
Hoggard 4 0 0 0 3 2 0 – 9 12 0
No. 2 D.H. Conley 2 No. 23 New Hanover 1
The Wildcats were on the road for their third round 4A playoff matchup on Wednesday and carried a one-run lead until No. 2 D.H. Conley rallied late to hand No. 23 New Hanover a 2-1 setback.
Kyle Smith plated the game’s first run after a leadoff double to start the top of the third. Alex Sniffen drove in Smith later in the inning to pick up the RBI and a 1-0 lead.
Lefty Caleb Bishop posted four shutout frames before D.H. Conley scored a pair of runs in the fifth.
New Hanover closed the year 17-8 overall. D.H. Conley moved to 23-3 overall and hosts No. 3 Hoggard in the fourth round of the state tournament on Friday, May 20.
No. 3 Fairmont 3 No. 11 North Brunswick 0
No. 11 Wake Forest 6 No. 14 Hoggard 1
Nia Green hit a solo home run to left field in the top of the first, but No. 11 Wake Forest scored six unanswered runs to hand No. 14 Hoggard a 6-1 defeat on Wednesday night.
The Vikings closed the year 23-7 overall.