Pirates’ final surge comes up short; Marvin Ridge baseball clinches back-to-back 3A titles

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The 2016 North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A State Championship came down to a decisive game three at Burlington Athletic Stadium on the final night of the high school baseball season.

Junior right-hander Jason Cornatzer posted a six-inning shutout, scattering five hits as Marvin Ridge belted three home runs, including a pair of solo shots by series MVP Chandler Castleberry to tie the series at one game apiece following a 10-0 victory early Saturday afternoon.

In the nightcap, the Mavericks continued to swing a hot bat, erupting for five runs in the bottom of the first en route to a 10-7 win to secure back-to-back state titles.

Topsail battled all weekend against Marvin Ridge. Photos by Joe Catenacci
Topsail battled all weekend against Marvin Ridge. Photos by Joe Catenacci

Down to their final three outs and trailing 10-4, Topsail answered the call as it had all spring. Chase Riker smacked a two-run home run down the right field line and Cameron Kimrey hit an RBI single to send the tying run to the plate before senior lefty Drew Swoope came in relief to record the final out of the game.

“Marvin Ridge really swung it this week and got up early, but our kids still fought all year long,” said Topsail Coach Chris Blake. “You can’t ask for anything else from them than the way they battled to the end tonight.”

With a freshman getting the start for Topsail in Aidan Smith, the Mavericks countered with sophomore Zach Zdimal as the depth of both teams were tested in a matchup to decide this year’s 3A winner.

Bryce Cota put the Pirates on the board with a double to left-center field in the top of the first. The senior designated hitter plated the game’s first run to give Topsail a 1-0 edge, but Marvin Ridge responded with five runs on three hits to grab a 5-1 advantage after one full inning. Jake Kuchmaner and Connor Paul combined for four runs batted in during consecutive at-bats to put the Mavericks in the driver’s seat.

Marvin Ridge plated single runs in the second and third, with three walks, one hit by pitch and an error aiding a three-run rally in the fourth to put the contest out of reach.

With a 10-1 lead, Marvin Ridge nearly ended the year on a mercy rule until Jake Luchansky came in to post a couple of zeros out of the Topsail bullpen to set up the comeback attempt.

Chase Riker finished a great high school career with a big game for Topsail on Saturday.
Chase Riker finished a great high school career with a big game for Topsail on Saturday.

“Marvin Ridge got to us and was probably the best offensive team we’ve face all year,” Blake said. “A loss is a loss, but seeing us fight back is huge. We were in a spot we wanted, but things just didn’t work out for us.”

Cota went 3-for-4 in the season-ending game as Topsail finished a tremendous year at 22-12 overall. Riker had two doubles, including the two-run round tripper, with 4 RBI during his final day as a Pirate. Aaron Beach also collected a multi-hit game as Topsail outhit Marvin Ridge 11-7 during game three, but committed three miscues and five total between the final two games.

The Pirates graduate four seniors from the program, including Cota, Kimrey, Riker and Payton Rice. Cota is headed to Campbell University this fall. Riker will continue his baseball career at Barton College, while Payton Rice is set to attend Louisburg College coming off a dominating year as Topsail’s number one starter.

“We graduated nine last year and four big players from this year’s team,” Blake said. “You don’t replace guys like we’ve had over the last few seasons, but we have a lot of talent coming back and more on the way so it’s time to keep this thing going.”

Marvin Ridge raised the 3A trophy for a second straight year with the club’s 30th win of the season, improving to 30-6 this spring.



Game 2

Box score                                 R   H   E

Marvin Ridge   100 240  3        10   11    1

Topsail             000  000  0        0    5   2


Game 3

Box score                                         R   H    E

Topsail              100 030  3                7   11    3

Marvin Ridge    511 300  X               10   7     2

3A baseball championship: game 1, Topsail  5, Marvin Ride 3; game 2,  Marvin Ridge 10, Topsail 0; Marvin Ridge 10, Topsail 7