Thanks to an impressive offensive explosion, the Northwood baseball team advanced to the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs with a 14-4 victory on Friday night.
There were three distinct highlights in the game — the three base-clearing shots that sent a healthy home crowd at Northwood wild.
In the third inning, Patrick Szczypinski got things going as part of a six-run inning for the Chargers. One inning later, Bryce Davis followed suit with a solo shot. And finally, in the fifth inning, Trey Romel hit another that pierced the gray skies above and landed far beyond the outfield wall.
After beating South Brunswick 10-3 in the first round, it’s hard not for head coach Rick Parks to get excited about his team’s offensive performance the last week.
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“That’s two playoff games and six home runs,” Parks said. “That’s pretty cool right there.”
Other standouts at the plate included leadoff man Max Hundley, who went 4-for-5 with a triple, and Colton Lineman, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles.
“Before the game, I preached to them, I said, ‘The ball is not going to fly, it’s not going to carry like it did the other day. We need to make sure we stay on top of it,’” Parks said. “And they are just in the zone right now, so we’ll just try to keep them there.”
For the Rocky Mount Gryphons, the season comes to an end. The Gryphons beat Douglas Byrd 4-0 on Wednesday and hoped to keep putting wins together, but the pitching puttered out in the late, drizzle-soaked innings of Friday’s contest.
It was an even tougher loss because of the early lead that Rocky Mount was able to jump out to. The Gryphons scored two runs in the top of the first as Charger pitcher Patrick Szczypinski found his footing. Once he did, the Gryphons’ bats couldn’t keep up. Szczypinski went the distance while Rocky Mount managed just five hits as a team.
“We’ve got a long ways to go to be that caliber of a baseball team right now,” head coach Pat Smith said. “We got off to a good start but there’s seven innings in a game.”
The Chargers (21-4) advance as the the No. 3 seed will host Eastern Alamance on Wednesday.
Northwood lost to Terry Sanford in 2015 and lost to Rockingham County in 2016, both on the road. This season, behind a strong senior class forged by the fires of those earlier playoff exits, the Chargers are hopeful.
“The cool thing is we are there, and the cooler thing is, we are home. So we are excited about that,” Parks said.