The North Moore Mustangs are one game away from playing in the school’s first state championship series.
The Mustangs traveled to Durham Athletic Park Wednesday night to take on the No. 3 ranked Voyager in game one of the NCHSAA regional finals.
The game’s first two innings were an offensive struggle for both teams as they couldn’t get the bats going. Pitcher, senior Bradley Mauldin, was on the mound for the Mustangs.
Starting with a hot arm, the Mustangs didn’t find themselves in trouble until the bottom of the third inning when Voyager scored the game’s first run.
“I started off good,” said Mauldin. “I started to feel it around the fourth inning. I started off with the four-seam, and when they started hitting that, I changed it. Whatever they weren’t hitting is what I went to.”
Despite the Mustangs’ infield having several errors, they went into the top of the fourth knowing they needed to score runs.
“I got a little nervous but stayed confident,” said Mauldin. “We made a couple of errors, but we bounced back, and that’s all that matters.”
The Voyager pitcher gave up a hit when Gabe Purvis hit a grounder down the left-field line. Austin Patterson came to bat and laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Patterson to second. Elliot Furr walked, and Will Kennedy took a hit to the helmet to load the bases.
They took advantage of the rattled pitcher and drove in four runs in the fourth inning. Voyager scored one more run in the bottom of the fifth but could not overcome consistent pitching from Mauldin and big plays from the fielders.
Will Kennedy came up big for the Mustang defense, catching five pop-flys, including a sliding catch late in the game to get the Mustangs out of a jam.
The Mustangs held the score of 4-2 to win game one of the regional finals. Voyager will travel to Robbins to play the Mustangs on Friday at 7 p.m. for game two.
“We’re feeling confident, especially with home-field advantage,” said Mauldin. “We have Ethan (Dunlap) on the mound Friday, so it’s going to be good.”
Dunlap had 10 strikeouts against Rosewood Saturday to advance the Mustangs to this series. You can read that article here.
“We have Dunlap coming back Friday, and their number one throws against him,” said North Moore coach Kennedy. “So, it’s going to be a pitchers’ dual on Friday. We have two games to play. We would love to close it out at home Friday, but that’s a good team. We can’t put it on cruise control. We’re going to have to show up and play Friday.”
The Mustangs will make their first state championship appearance in school history if they win. If game three is needed, they will return to Durham on Saturday, where the winner will advance to the state championship.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Curtis Self.