The Catawba Ridge Copperheads advanced to the finals in one of the Upper State brackets where they will have to beat the Greenville Red Raiders twice over the weekend to advance in the playoffs.
Catawba Ridge eliminated the Riverside Warriors with a 11-2 win at home Wednesday evening to improve to 23-6 overall. The Copperheads now must travel to Greenville Friday to play and if they win, play again Saturday in Greenville for a decisive game to see which team advances to the Upper State championship. If Catawba Ridge loses either game their season will end.
“We got to win Friday,” said Catawba Ridge head coach Stas Swerdzewski.
In the top of the first inning, Riverside started the game with a single off Copperheads starter Jackson Mullen. A controversial play at third on a throw down on a stolen base then led to the Warriors scoring a run in a groundout with the next batter. Catawba Ridge was able to get out of the inning with only surrendering the one run.
The Copperheads put the first two batters on in the bottom of the first inning. Jackson Mullen then drove in the two runs with a double scoring Jake McCoy and Owen Noonan. Sam Schwab then drove in courtesy runner Ethan Solnick to give the Copperheads a 3-1 lead.
Mullen found his groove in the second inning taking down the side with three strikeouts.
Riverside’s Cayden Crosby doubled with one out in the third inning. He would advance to third and then score on a passed ball to cut into the Copperheads’ lead.
Mullen was pulled in the third with two outs to keep his pitch count low and replaced with Jacob Iverson. Mullen can now comeback on Saturday to pitch if the Copperheads need him.
“That was the plan,” Swerdzewski said. “I have so much confidence in all of our arms in the bullpen. We have a very deep pitching staff. I am confident with anyone we got.”
A resilient Catawba Ridge team had McCoy lead the bottom of the third off with a triple and then scored on a wild throw that went into the third base dugout. Mullen would double in Noonan who reached on an error to continue to push the pace. Mullen would be driven in by Britton Nash giving the Copperheads a 6-2 lead.
In the fourth inning, Peyton Dhein came in and took control on the mound to keep momentum with the Copperheads.
Catawba Ridge added to their lead on back-to-back doubles by McCoy and Noonan. Mullen would then double in Noonan as the Copperheads went up 9-2.
Riverside threatened in the fifth inning with getting two base runners on base, but Dhein was able to work out of the jam without allowing a run.
In the bottom of the sixth, McCoy continued to pace the Copperheads with a two-run home run. McCoy led Catawba Ridge at the plate going 3-3 with three RBI and Mullen was just as productive going 4-4 with four RBI.
“I thought up and down the lineup, we swung it pretty well,” Swerdzewski said. “We have been a pretty good offensive club for most of the year. This team is capable of putting up runs on the board.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep