The West Brunswick High School baseball team was one out away from punching their ticket to the 3A east regional championship series.
But with a runner on second, Corinth Holders’ second baseman Alec Seaton drove the first pitch of his at-bat into left-center field to tie the game at 4 – 4 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. The RBI double was the first and only hit of the night for the Pirates’ No. 9 hitter, and it changed the momentum of the game in the visitors’ favor.
After the Mideastern Conference champion Trojans were unable to score in the bottom of the seventh, the game went into extra innings. That’s when the Pirates’ offense came to life.
West Brunswick coaches chose to leave starting pitcher Johnathan Carlyle, who had a pitch count in the 70s with five strikeouts, two walks and six hits allowed through seven innings, in the game to start the extra frame against the heart of the Pirates lineup.
Corinth Holders took advantage of the tiring pitcher. After Mason Cooper led off the eighth inning with a single, Tyler Barritt laid down a bunt and reached base on an errant throw to first. Then cleanup hitter Tate Proctor blasted one out of the yard, giving the Pirates a 7 – 4 lead with no one out and ending Carlyle’s night on the mound.
Relief pitcher Greg Noll came in to finish the inning but gave up two runs of his own. Corinth Holders sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the eighth and finished their half inning with five runs and four hits.
The No. 2 seeded Trojans, who had a 19-game winning streak during the regular season and beat all three of its previous playoff opponents this year by virtue of the mercy rule, couldn’t come up with a rally in the bottom of the eighth inning. After allowing a leadoff walk, Pirates pitchers retired the side to earn a trip to the next round.
“You tip your hat to a team that found a way to win,” West Brunswick Head Coach T.J. Spivey said. “We’re one out away from being in the eastern finals, with a man on second…but that’s baseball.”
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff hitter Tyler Stanley got on base with a single. The speedy center fielder stole second and then third base, enabling him to score easily on a sacrifice fly from Hunter Ashburn.
The team from Johnston County answered in the second inning with one swing of the bat. After walking Proctor, Carlyle gave up a two-run home run to Kahlil Hodge with two outs.
Stanley’s speed and ability to get on base allowed the Trojans to tie it up again in the third. The No. 19 Pirates took the lead again in the top of the sixth, but West Brunswick quickly rallied to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of that same inning. They just couldn’t hold on.
“We didn’t even talk about the game,” Spivey said of their team huddle after the heartbreaking loss. “I’m very blessed with these nine seniors [on the team]. It made my job really easy these last years.
“Twenty-four wins [in a season] is a school record. This is only the second time in school history that we won the conference,” Spivey said. “There’s a lot to be proud of.”
The Trojans finish the season with a record of 24-4. Corinth Holders moves on to play No. 17 Topsail in the eastern regional championship series, which starts on May 24.