ZEBULON, N.C.--R-S Central had a chance to make school history by winning their first-ever baseball state title. Unfortunately, it was Holmes who swept in two games to take the 2A crown for 2017. Zebulon hosted the 2A State Baseball Title this past Friday night and Saturday and both games were competitive.
First of all, there was a great following, especially on Saturday for the Hilltoppers. It had been 18 years since the school had made a final in any sport. It was the Men's Soccer Team that did so and won it all in 1999. The significance was felt. The players, coaches and fans wanted to cease the opportunity.
The momentum was on the Hilltoppers side early when they completed a 6-4-3 double play. Then, R-S Central (26-6) nabbed the lead in Game 1, when Keaton Snethen single to center and Cam Snethen followed by smacking a shot down the left field line in the third inning. The left fielder couldn't catch up as the ball ran all the way to the wall. Cam then turned on the jets as R-S Central Baseball Coach Chadd Fowler sent him home and he easily made it safely for a 2-0 lead. Upon appeal, Holmes (28-4) checked second base and Snethen had actually missed it and was called out to score only one run.
From that point, the Hilltoppers just kept pace. A passed ball got the first Holmes run to cross in the fourth and Harrison Powell's base hit put Holmes up 2-1. Cam Snethen threw out the runner at the plate to the end inning on the same play.
In the fifth inning, Central had three consecutive runners to reach base, but Keaton Snethen was thrown out for stealing and Cam was picked off second base.
During the same frame, Holmes used a suicide squeeze from Chace Kelly to up the run advantage to 3-1. That would also be the final count.
Phillips was sensational on the mound Friday night. R-S Central couldn't have asked for much more as he allowed just two hits, rang up four strikeouts, but five walks was the only downside. Still, the Hilltoppers had a 6-2 advantage in hits and left six stranded in Game 1.
Luke Hoggard had an RBI double to left in the first inning as Holmes took the early lead, but Central fired in the bottom half. Jace Crowe dumped a hit to right and stole second. Jake Laughter came up with the base knock to left for the RBI to tie it back at 1-1.
However, it wasn't meant to be as Holmes used seven hits, and five Central errors in the game to take command. Holmes led 3-1 in the third, 6-1 in the fifth and won the title with a 7-2 final.
"As a team, they each played for each other and this is a special group, no doubt," R-S Central Baseball Coach Chadd Fowler spoke somberly after the game 2 loss. "We didn't swing it like we wanted in Game 1 and we didn't field it like we wanted in game 2."
Jace Crowe was the player of the week for the Hilltoppers as he went 5-for-7 from the plate in two games. Senior, Dillon Phillips was the MVP of the Hilltoppers this season. Phillips helped the Hilltoppers to beat Hendersonville in the first round of the playoffs during his freshman year as Central was the last team to make the field that year.
Overall, this club normally makes one or two errors a game and can overcome it, but this past weekend was different. Holmes fielded better, took advantage of opportunities and held serve in the rubber match too. Although, the Hilltoppers held an 11-9 hit advantage this past weekend.
Central had too many mistakes, did not pressure Holmes enough. The pitching was actually good on the homeside between Phillips, Crowe, Cam Snethen and Marty Barella. Central couldn't string enough hits together in any inning. The hits were mostly scattered throughout two days of competition.
"Despite what the outcome was this weekend, I still love this group," Fowler said.
Even though, the state championship run ended just short of the finish line, it was an experience that shouldn't be overlooked. It brought communities back together, old friends that hadn't seen each other in awhile and to see those in the dugout to be happy to be there was all worth it.
Congrats to R-S Central on the season they had as Western Regionals Winners and to make it all the way to state.
Those who were rostered this season included: Adam McDowell, Quentin Harris, Cam Snethen, Marty Barella, Keaton Snethen, Cam Miller, Jake Laughter, Jacob Knox, Nate Hadley, Nate Collins, Chase Harris, Dillon Phillips, Harrison Lane, Joey Daigle,Wesley Smith, Jace Crowe, Austin McClellan and Joe Conner. Coaches: Chadd Fowler, Sam Hooper, Todd Beheler, Jordan Rumfelt and Ridge Beheler.