By DAN BISER
The East Surry Cardinals brought a 30-0 record into its state 1A baseball championship series with the Whiteville Wolfpack. On Friday evening at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, the East Surry squad topped the Wolfpack 7-4 for its 31st straight win. The loss snapped a 14-game WHS winning streak.
However, Coach Brett Harwood’s Whiteville knew it had at least one more chance against the Cardinals in the best-of-three series.
In Saturday’s Game 2, WHS rapped out 13 hits (including nine straight in a seven-run third inning) as well as a three-hit pitching performance by freshman left-hander Mackenzie Gore as it strong-armed East Surry 10-0, putting the Cardinals in the loss column for the first time this season. The game was halted in the fifth inning by the 10-run and a third and final game was scheduled for Saturday evening.
With WHS sophomore Connor Grainger getting his first pitching assignment since the opening round of the playoffs, the Wolfpack and Cardinals tied into a defensive struggle after each scored first-inning runs. East Surry went ahead 2-1 with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. But in the top of the seventh, the Wolfpack got big doubles off the bats of Grainger, Zach Pait and Hunter Harwood to gain a 3-2 lead.
Gore, who had relieved Grainger in the fifth inning, got a big final-inning defensive play by shortstop Turner Brown and recorded two strike outs to end the game and give the Wolfpack its second state baseball championship in three seasons and its sixth in school history.
Gore was named the MVP of the championship series with his two mound victories … which also became the only two losses for East Surry.
Whiteville, which was comprised of five juniors, seven sophomores, and one freshman (no seniors), closed its 2014 season with a 26-6 record.
“We’ve been a young team, but we have come a long way,” said Harwood, who has been Wolfpack head coach for 10 seasons. “We’ll have everybody back, so we have every reason to feel we can get the job done again next year.”
Whiteville also won baseball championships in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1991 and 2012.
Former WHS state champion players who now have sons on the Wolfpack squad are Eric Pait (1985, father of Zach), David Smith (1985, father of Taylor), Byron Ward (1989, father of Grayson) and Brett Harwood (1989, father of Hunter).
The WHS baseball team pulled into the Legion Stadium lot at 11:15 Saturday night and received a large welcome home celebration from WHS supporters.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Harwood said.
Complete game reports from the state 1A championship baseball series will be featured in the sports section of the Monday issue of The News Reporter.