It's been over a decade since R-S Central's baseball team has reached a Western Regional Final, but they accomplished the feat last week.
East Rutherford and R-S Central played in the third round of playoffs. Unfortunately one had to lose, but it was a heck of a game, with the R-S Hilltoppers winning the playoff game!
East Rutherford grabbed the early lead in the first inning as Kendall McGowan singled to right, Gehrig Christopher doubled to right and Josh Searcy brought in the run on a groundout.
Dillion Phillips had the big two-out, two-run base hit to left as R-S Central took it's first lead of the game at 2-1 in the third.
East tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth as Christopher (walk) would score on a sacrifice fly.
It was in the bottom of the seventh that decided it all. Cam Snethen legged out a single into a double that was sliced into left field. Jace Crowe and Dillon Phillips walked with one out as Jake Laughter came to the plate. East was trying to set up the double play or force out and it almost worked. Laughter grounded a pitch to second base, but the throw was high and wide of the plate as Cam slid in safely for the walkoff win. Phillips allowed just four hits on the mound, while East pitcher Tucker Toney gave up just five.
R-S Central skipper, Chadd Fowler was about as energetic as a coach could get after the win. "That game had just an unbelievable atmosphere and that's a great club they have over at East." Fowler said. "I am just so happy to win and move on."
East Rutherford Baseball Coach Bobby Reynolds was humble in the loss. "We prolonged the game at times tonight, but you have to tip your cap to (Dillon) Phillips," Reynolds said. "We have faced him three times this year and I thought we would have done better tonight at the plate."
On Friday night, it was the pitching of Jace Crowe and the defense of Nate Collins, plus one monster hit from Dillon Phillips. R-S Central's Phillips crushed a pitch for a solo shot in the fourth inning and defeated West Davidson 1-0.
Crowe tossed a complete game shutout by allowing only three hits. Collins made eight plays from third base, which included a diving stop in the first inning. He also picked off the runner who tried for home on a grounder to Collins with no outs in the third inning to prevent a run. Central also rolled a double play in the fifth and seventh inning to preserve the win.
So this week, they hosted Lake Norman Charter Tuesday, would go to Lake Norman on Thursday and end up back at R-S on Saturday if the series goes three games.
Should R-S Central (24-4) win the series, they go to the state finals in Raleigh.
As for East Rutherford (19-7), nobody had a fierce line of batters in 2A, but R-S Central pitching got the best of them this season. The Cavaliers will graduate eight off this club, including: Kendall McGowan, Tyler Bridges, Gehrig Christopher, Weston Randall, Kevin Gonzalez, Adam Barnette, Caleb Stewart and Holden Greene.
Meanwhile, R-S Central's Softball (21-3) was on the verge of the Western Regional Finals, but lost to Madison on Saturday 5-2. The Lady Hilltoppers went up 1-0 in the second frame, but Madison tied it back up in the next inning, before going off for four runs in the fourth to end Central's season.
Only three seniors are lost from this club as Kyonna McEntrye, Brooke Moore and Taylor Koon have played their last game in a Hilltopper uniform. All three were big bats and this was a team that maybe were as dangerous as any when it came to 1-9 in the batting order.