Topsail takes 1-0 series lead on Piedmont
Chad Cota didn't get the decision on the mound after starting for Topsail, but he delivered the decisive hit — a two-RBI single with two outs in the sixth inning that lifted his team to a 5-3 win in the opener of the 3A state championship series on Friday night in Five County Stadium.
Cota, a 6-6 junior righty who has committed to UNC Chapel Hill, entered the game with a 6-2 record and a 1.86 ERA.
Cota carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, but Hunter Jones broke it up with a single up the middle.
Jones got the Panthers on the board on Austin Harding's RBI single up in the middle, cutting the lead to 3-1.
Harding took second on the throw home, giving the Panthers a chance to put together a rally with no outs. Cota, however, responded by striking out the next two batters and inducing a flyout to left that allowed him to maintain a two-run cushion.
Topsail took control with three runs in the third inning.
Pirates leadoff hitter Danny Wilson Wilson doubled down the third base line for his second hit of the game in the third, and eventually scored on shortstop Jake Madole's two-out single to left. The bigger blow came off the bat of Sam Luchansky, who singled up the middle and knocked in two runs, giving Topsail a 3-0 advantage.
Piedmont threatened in the bottom of the second by drawing three walks and putting two runners in scoring position, but Cota worked his way out of it.
Topsail opened the game with back-to-back singles and had runners on second on third with one out, but Nash worked out of it by getting a strikeout for the second out and then forcing a 4-3 groundout to end the inning.
Cota allowed back-to-back walks to Nash and Nigel Hester with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, bringing on Luchansky in relief.
Luchansky, a right-handed sidewinder, gave up a run on a wild pitch, and Colton Greene tied the game at 3-all when Jones reached on an infield single with one out.
The Pirates out-hit Piedmont 11-3 in the series opener, and dropped Nash's record to 9-4 on the year.
Topsail improved to 20-8 while Piedmont fell to 21-9.
Game 2 is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday in Mudcats Stadium, and Game 3, if necessary, should start at 8 p.m. the same day.
... Piedmont's Corey Sikes and Topsail's Trader Flora received sportsmanship awards before Game 1.
... Topsail scored three earned runs off Nash in the pivotal third inning. Nash had allowed six earned runs the entire season before Friday night — a span of 61.2 innings.
... Harding, who had eight RBI in the regular season, now has five RBI in the last four games. Harding reached base in all three of his at-bats on Game 1, including a single, a walk and hit by pitch.
... Piedmont was undefeated in state championship series games (4-0) before Friday. The Panthers swept their best-of-3 series in 1984 and did it again during their title run in 2013.
... Wilson led Topsail with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate in Game 1, including two doubles.
... Nash went the distance on the mound for Piedmont, marking the ninth game in a row the Panthers' starting pitcher finished the game. Piedmont hasn't used a relief pitcher since April 29.
... Topsail entered the series having never won a state championship in baseball.