Knights rally for playoff win over Chatham Central


Update: The Chatham Charter baseball team lost in the third round of the 1A tournament to  East Wake Academy, 5-4, at home Tuesday. The Knights end the year with an overall record of 17-2.

Starting on the mound for his team Friday against Chatham Central in the second round of the 1A state baseball playoffs, Chatham Charter sophomore Zach Cartrette got off to an uncharacteristic start.

Playing against several Bears whom he has previously teamed up with at the travel level, Cartrette admitted to being a “little too excited” about the prospect of leading his team to a win. The first two batters he faced picked up a single and a double, respectively. Two batters later, Central had a 2-0 lead after an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly.

Adding to the intensity of the moment was the cacophony of sounds coming from the Chatham Central dugout. While Cartrette was on the mound — both in between pitches and during his wind-up — the Bears’ players shouted, chanted and tried their best to distract the sophomore. And it was fairly effective.

After giving up two more runs in the top of the second, Cartrette was relieved by fellow sophomore Luke Johnson. Cartette stayed in the game at third base and continued to hit. Wanting to make up for his rough start to the game, he finished the night 2-for-4 and two important RBI and helped the Knights’ rally for the 7-4 win and reach the third round for the first time in program history.

“I’ve played with them all for a really long time,” Cartrette said of Central’s players. “I wasn’t really expecting that (noise), and I hadn’t really heard that from them before ... I just wanted to beat them so bad that I think it kind of messed with me a little bit. But it’s a big game for us. I’m just trying to help us win in any way possible, even if I’m having an off game on the mound.”

The first of Cartrette’s two RBI came in the bottom of the first, as a rocket single to left field cut the deficit to 2-1. When the sophomore’s time on the mound ended, his team’s deficit had ballooned to 4-1. But he made the most of his next at-bat in the bottom of the third — hitting Charter’s third straight single of the frame to plate senior Cameron Turner and make the score 4-2. The moment proved to be a catalyst for the Knights, as the rest of the inning saw them claw back and eventually take a 6-4 lead over their county rival, an advantage they would hold for the remainder of the night.

For the season, Cartrette is hitting .467 at the plate while totaling 28 hits and 20 RBI. On the mound, he is 7-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 47 innings. Cartrette is one of the nine underclassmen that make up Charter’s 12-player roster.

“Sometimes, it’s great to be young,” said Charter head coach Bill Slaughter. “We’ve come from behind latea couple time this year and snatched a win from somebody when we weren’t playing that well ... You have five freshmen and four sophomores out there, they don’t know any better. They’re loose and relaxed, and they just go up there and swing the bat.”

Two of the biggest plays in the decisive third inning for the Knights came courtesy of two freshmen — Tyner Williams and Brandon Rives. With one out in the inning, Williams smacked an RBI single after fouling off four straight pitches. And in the team’s next at-bat, Rives executed a safety squeeze to perfection that gave Chatham Charter its first lead of the game.

This season, Rives and Williams have combined to hit .429 with 24 hits and 17 RBI, and both also batted in runs in Charter’s 20-0 win over Southeast Halifax in the first round of the 1A tournament. The pair, along with fellow freshmen Jace Young and Garrison Clark, have hit the ground running in their first high school seasons and have been a welcome change of pace for a Charter team in need of an energy injection.

“It’s really exciting,” Cartrette said about the team’s newcomers. “Last year, we were alright, but we didn’t have a lot of depth. The freshmen have really added depth to our team and they can all do just about anything. You can put them in any position and they’ll do what they’re supposed to. I’m really confident in them.”

The win over the Bears moved Chatham Charter to the third round of the 1A tournament, where they faced East Wake Academy at home Tuesday night (game occurred after press time). If victorious against the Eagles, the Knights will host either Voyager or Northside-Pinetown on Friday in the fourth round.

Chatham Central’s 2023 season came to a close with Friday’s loss. The Bears end the year with a 15-8 overall record under head coach Brett Walden. In total, six Central players batted at least .350 with 20 hits and 15 RBI — sophomore Matt Murchison, sophomore Zane Overman, junior Joaquin Gordon, junior Wesley Clewis, senior Travis Crissman and senior Hasten Paige. Clewis and junior Anthony Lopossay were the team’s top pitchers, and both are expect back next spring.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.

baseball, nchsaa, playoffs, chatham charter, chatham central