Seaforth makes it to third round of state playoffs

Baseball team opens postseason run with two wins


In the Seaforth baseball team’s first ever playoff run, it learned very quickly that the seeding and regular season records don’t matter.

The Hawks, the No. 7 team in the 2A East bracket who went 17-5 during the regular season, won their first ever playoff game, 3-2, over No. 26 Wallace-Rose Hill, a team that went 11-9 prior to the postseason.

Seaforth head coach Landon Jones said “it was clear” that it was his young team’s first playoff game. The Hawks struggled at the plate and made a few mistakes that kept the game tight, but they found a way to win with the game coming down to the final at-bat.

“Really proud (with) finding a way to win,” Jones said. “It’s our first time here, and being here this time of year, we can’t take that for granted.”

Junior pitcher Cade Elmore felt those sentiments to start the game as he struck out three batters in the top of the first inning.

“I thought my location was really good,” Elmore said. “That fastball outside, I was really dotting it up.”

Seaforth’s bats just couldn’t match the energy, though. Even with two batters getting hit by a pitch, the Hawks couldn’t bring them home in a hitless bottom of the first inning.

In the top of the second inning, the momentum swung even further in the Bulldogs’ direction. Wallace-Rose Hill junior Kaiden Liu singled on a ground ball to the middle of the infield, and he advanced to second base after a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Will Brooks in the next at-bat. Junior Dane Turner then hit a fast ball to left field that slid under Seaforth third baseman Jaedyn Rader’s glove, sending Liu to third base.

Turner stole second base in the next at-bat, and as Seaforth catcher Colin Dorney tried to throw him out, Liu reached home for the Bulldogs’ first run.

After Seaforth went three up and three down in the bottom of the second inning, Wallace-Rose Hill led 1-0 until the Hawks finally got their first hit in the bottom of the third inning.

With one out and junior Daniel White stealing second base, Rader doubled to right center field, sending in White to tie the game. Elmore built on that in the very next at-bat as his single to left field sent Rader home for the 2-1 lead.

“The key was guys fighting,” Jones said. “It was Rader in the third inning…It was (Elmore) following him up. It was (Tanner Morgan) at the start of that inning fouling a few pitches off. There was just a gradual fight. When we chip and chip and chip, we put the pressure on (Wallace-Rose Hill) that they have to load the bases (and) they have to see what happens.”

Wallace-Rose Hill tied the game in the top of the fourth inning with the help of another defensive mistake from Seaforth. With two outs, Turner hit the ball to Seaforth shortstop Anders Johansson, and when Morgan, the first baseman, mishandled the put-out throw, Liu, the runner on second, scored once again for the Bulldogs’ second run.

The score remained 2-2 until the seventh inning as both defenses, led by their pitchers, continued to hold strong. In the bottom of the sixth, Liu, who took over for senior Dallas James on the mound to start the inning, returned the favor handed out by Elmore in the first inning as he also struck out three batters.

With a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning, Lovette reached first base safely thanks to a fielding error by Seaforth freshman second baseman Anthony Landano. Elmore threw Lovette out at second base in the next at-bat as a bunt forced him to advance, and all of the Bulldogs’ efforts were wasted when James got called for batter’s interference immediately after, incurring two outs.

Things also weren’t looking too good for Seaforth to start the bottom of the seventh inning. After Morgan hit a popup for the first out, White had his back against the wall on an 0-2 count. White responded with a single to center field, making it safe on an error by the second baseman.

“(Liu) gave me two curveballs that kind of got me,” White said. “On that third pitch, I was like ‘there’s no way he doesn’t throw another curveball. I’ve got to hit this one. I don’t want to strikeout.’”

With Rader next up to bat, White advanced to third base after two wild pitches, and Liu eventually walked Rader on purpose for a double-play opportunity.

Rader then stole second base in Elmore’s following at-bat, and Elmore was also intentionally walked which loaded the bases.

Senior Dane O’Neill took the plate, and after a strike on the first pitch, the second one hit him in the back, sending White in for the walk-off score.

“I just tried to put the ball in play,” O’Neill said. “Luckily, it hit me in the back. I’m going to feel it for a long time.”

Seaforth’s playoff run continued after beating No. 23 West Craven in the second round, 4-1, but it was cut short Tuesday in a 6-1 loss to No. 2 Whiteville in the third round.