The underdog story of the Roxboro Community School baseball team ended a week before any of the players, coaches and Bulldog faithful dreamed it would.
Uwharrie Charter broke through in the fourth inning and held off a furious late charge to defeat RCS 8-4 to sweep the best of three 1A regional finals series Thursday in front of a huge crowd at Optimist Park. The Eagles (24-5) defeated RCS 12-2 in the opening game and advanced to the program’s first-ever 1A state championship. They will face the winner of the east series between Bear Grass Charter and Rosewood. Rosewood won the first game of the best-of-three series 2-1, with game two slated for Friday.
The loss ends what was a memorable year in the young history of the RCS baseball program. The Bulldogs finished the season at 19-6, including three road playoff games to earn a berth in the first regional final in team history.
“I knew we were going to be a good baseball team,” RCS coach Pete Tuck said. “It was a matter of how hard they were going to work and how good they wanted to be and if they would come together as a team. I knew it in the second game of the year (against East Wake Academy) when we came back from being down 11-2 that we were going to be pretty John Brown good. I told them that they’re going down in the history of Person County baseball as one of the best teams that’s ever rolled through here and that’s something they need to be proud of. I know I am.”
Uwharrie managed just eight hits in the game, but delivered them at the right time.
The Eagles broke open a scoreless game in the fourth inning, starting with a bases loaded groundout by Hunter Hill that scored a run, followed by a pair of two-run singles by ninth-place hitter Colt Wilkins and Tyler Campbell.
Uwharrie batted around, and RCS starting pitcher Grant Meiggs didn’t make it out of the inning.
The Eagles stretched their lead to 8-0 in the sixth inning with three runs, the big blow coming on a two-out to right by Spencer Lanier. Three of Uwharrie’s eight hits came with two outs.
“They are relentless at the plate,” Tuck said. “They got some hits in both games that a lot of teams we’ve played this year and especially in the playoffs, didn’t hit those pitches. Once they got on base, they know how to run the bases. You know me, I love all facets of the game, but base running may be my favorite part. When you’re putting pressure on the defense, it makes you make mistakes. They made us put pressure on ourselves and we made a couple of mistakes and when you play a team like this, you can’t make mistakes.”
It took a while, but the Bulldogs answered, but it was just a little too late.
Jeremy Tuck got the rally started with one-out infield single to left side and moved into scoring position when Uwharrie shortstop misplayed a grounder by Collin Clayton that could have been the final out of the game.
The Bulldogs pounced on the opportunity.
Michael Clayton hammered a ball in the left-field gap for a two-run triple and, after a walk to Grant Meiggs, came around to score on a two-run double by senior Ian Coleman to ignite the overflowing crowd at Optimist Park.
Cleanup hitter Bryson Pleasant just missed cutting the lead to two, but his high flyball to center was caught by Colby Hammer for the final out of the game.
In the Bulldogs’ last swings of the season, they brought eight batters to the plate, scored four times, and had three hits.
“They just competed,” Tuck said. “That was us. That’s pretty much the way we’ve played all year. There have been times where we’ve been down all year and we come back. I just wish we could have started a little bit sooner.”
Mason Little picked up the complete-game win for the Eagles, scattering seven hits, while striking out four. All four of the Bulldogs’ runs were unearned.
Pleasant broke out of a recent slump in a huge way, going 3-for-4, including a double in the fourth inning.
Collin Clayton had a two-out single in the fifth inning.
Uwharrie slugs to first-game
win in regional final series
ASHEBORO — The Uwharrie Charter baseball team did something that no one else has done for the last three weeks — hit Roxboro Community School pitching.
The Eagles erupted for seven runs in the third inning and rolled to a 12-2, five-inning romp in the first game of the best-of-three 1A West region series Tuesday in Asheboro.
“It’s a good thing it’s a three-game series because we did not show up tonight,” Tuck said. “We laid a big, fat egg tonight, simple as that. For the first time in a long time, probably since the (second) Voyager game which is about a month ago, I saw us fold when we had a little adversity. I reminded them about the Mitchell game when we got a lead, booted it around a little bit and Mitchell got the lead. We bounced back. We’ve got to bounce back. This is a heck of a team, a heck of a team, but we can play with them. Tonight, when things went bad, we felt sorry for ourselves instead of competing. That’s not going to do it in this stage.”
The Eagles got to RCS ace William Leonard and chased him out of the game after bringing 11 batters to the plate in the third inning. It matched his shortest outing in a start this season after a two dynamite performances in wins in the first and third round. He tossed 70 pitches and would be eligible to pitch in game three Saturday, if necessary.
The inning began with Leonard striking out leadoff hitter Colby Hammer on a check swing called third strike, but the pitch got away from catcher Josh Wade and went all the way to the backstop. The ball got stuck in padding on the wall behind home plate, allowing Hammer to reach safely.
After a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Campbell, third-place hitter Colyn Grissom ripped an RBI liner to left to score Hammer and give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
It was just the beginning.
Two batters later, Bryson Hamlet hit a towering two-run homer well over the 20-foot high fence in right field and started a stretch of six consecutive hitters to reach base. In the third inning, Uwharrie Charter had five hits and took advantage of two Bulldog errors.
“He made some really good pitches,” Tuck said. “We had the leadoff guy, and if the ball doesn’t get stuck in the pad, we’ve got an out. We had some bad things happen, things that haven’t happened in a while and we didn’t respond accordingly, but that’s a good hitting ballclub.”
Hamlet went the distance on the mound, surrendering just four hits, while striking out six. Like Leonard, his pitch count was low enough for him to return for a possible third game Saturday.
RCS got on the board in the first inning on a two-out single by Josh Wade, but Uwharrie answered with two runs in the bottom half.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the top of the third when Michael Clayton scored on a wild pitch after a infield single to lead off the frame. Clayton reached base in all three plate appearances with two basehits on the right side of the infield, but was picked off twice on the bases.
Bryson Pleasant had the Bulldog other hit in the game.
The Eagles added a run in the fourth on a Trey Way bases-loaded walk and put the game away with two runs in the fifth, the final blow coming on an RBI single by Johnathan Weaver past a diving effort by Ian Coleman at short.