East champs x 2: Panthers baseball team joins softball team in state finals

Published 12:32 pm Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Senior Brandon Arthur might have saved his best pitch for last, although the right-hander had all of them working for him all day. His 105th and final pitch of his final game on his home pitching mound was a fastball up and in to the right-handed East Wake Academy batter, who swung and missed as the ball blazed past him for the final out of the sixth inning.

Junior Ashton Willard pitched the final frame as the Panthers advanced to the state championship series for the second time in school history with a 4-1 victory over the Eagles in the third and deciding game of their East regional series.

“It was awesome to end it like I did,” Arthur said. “What a tremendous feeling to win at home and get to play for a state championship. I had confidence in all three pitches today and my curve ball was really on. I’m proud of my teammates and it’s great to get to keep playing.”

Third-seeded Northside (22-6) plays the #1 Mount Airy (26-2)-#2 Uwharrie Charter (25-6) winner for the state championship Friday and Saturday at a stie to be announced over the weekend. The West finals are scheduled to end Saturday.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Chase Hewitt’s two-out RBI single to left field that scored Arthur.

The fourth-seeded Eagles (19-5) responded with a run in the fourth to tie, but the Panthers sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good.

Singles from Holden Boykin, Arthur and Hunter Chrismon produced the first run, Griffin Johnson’s single to right made it 3-1, then Trenton Allen followed with another opposite-field hit to score Johnson.

“We worked on hitting the ball the opposite way in practice earlier this week and it paid off,” coach Parker Boyd said. “Our guys stayed relaxed and didn’t try to pull every pitch that was away. They just went with it and drove it to right field. We ran the bases well; Brandon was outstanding on the mound and we came up with some timely hits.”

It’s the first trip to the state finals since the 1994 team won the 2A title and the first time in Northside’s 35-year history that the softball and baseball teams advanced in the same year.

“You couldn’t write a better script for a movie than the way it turned out in real life,” softball and former baseball coach Keith Boyd said. “You might never see this again and I’m proud of the players on both teams for being East champions. We’ll enjoy it over the weekend and start preparing for the final series on Tuesday.”