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Rushton grounds Red Baron

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
YEATESVILLE — After losing twice to Gates County during the regular season, Northside proved the third time really is a charm as the Panthers topped the Red Baron 9-1 on Tuesday to advance to the third round of the NCHSAA Class 1-A state playoffs.
Pitcher William Rushton put together a masterpiece on the mound as he let up one run and scattered seven hits over seven innings. Rushton finished the game striking out four batters and walking one.
Northside (12-10) coach Addison Bass said he was thrilled to see his team live to play another day.
Rushton certainly was on top of his game as he baffled the Barons’ hitters with a solid fastball mixed in with extremely effective off-speed stuff, keeping Gates County (15-9) off balance throughout the game.
Rushton did a superb job of keeping the ball down in the zone as 15 of the Barons’ 21 outs were a result of ground balls, including three double plays by the Panthers’ infielders.
Rushton’s counterpart, Hunt Lowe, also did a nice job for the Barons as he silenced Northside for three innings, letting up one hit and no runs. However, Gates County coach Chris Styles feared Lowe was pitching too high and pulled him at the start of the fourth inning.
The move backfired as the Panthers pounced on reliever Chad Gurganis for three runs in the fourth. Gurganis would be the game’s losing pitcher.
Northside slugger Eric Daniels led off the inning with a hard line drive that was misjudged by centerfielder John Morris and allowed Daniels to get to third.
After Tyler Woolard struck out, Aaron McKinney stepped to the plate and knocked a grounder to second. Daniels charged home on the play and bowled over the Barons’ catcher for the game’s first run. The Barons may have been able to get Daniels out a the plate, but the catcher could not hold onto second baseman John Wester’s throw.
Gurganis struck out the next batter, then issued a walk to Colby Mason, which allowed the Panthers’ sweet swinging lefty, Bradley Slade, to step into the batter’s box with two runners on board.
Slade turned on a Gurganis fastball and hooked it deep into the right field gap to score McKinney and Mason and take a 3-0 lead.
Gates County would pick up a run in the top of the fifth, but could not mount any more rallies after that.
After the game, the Barons’ coach praised Northside.
Styles also explained his decision to yank Lowe with the scored tied at 0-0 after three innings.
After allowing three runs in the fourth, Gurganis was pulled for Dustin Briggs who, after pitching a scoreless fifth, got shelled in the sixth.
The Panthers rallied for six runs off the Barons’ third pitcher of the night. McKinney and Mason each scored on errors for the first two runs of the inning.
After McKinney scored, Austin Swain drove in Mason when the Barons’ rightfielder misplayed his would-be sacrifice fly to extend the Panthers’ lead to 5-1.
Rushton picked up an RBI when his fielders’ choice grounder scored Slade. Will Allen followed that with an RBI triple to score Rushton and make it 7-1.
The Panthers’ Daniels put the finishing touches on the game in style, as he blasted Briggs’ pitch over the left field fence to score Northside’s eight and ninth runs.
Bass said he expects his team to be on the road this Friday, as the Panthers will play the winner of the Dixon and Manteo game.
NCHSAA Class 1-A State Playoffs
Second Round
Gates County 000 010 0 — 1 7 3
Northside 000 306 x — 9 7 0
WP: William Rushton; LP: Chad Gurganis
Hitters: G — Dustin Briggs 1-3, John Dail 2-3, Chad Gurganis 2-3, Hunt Lowe 1-3, Travis Badgett 1-3 (3B); N — Bradley Slade 1-3 (2 RBI, R), Will Rushton 1-3 (3B, RBI), Will Allen 1-4 (3 B, RBI), Eric Daniels 2-4 (3B, HR, 2 RBI), Aaron McKinney 1-1 (RBI).