Eagles soar to state baseball crown with stellar pitching

The UCA baseball team collected another state championship banner. (NCHSAA photo)

HOLLY SPRINGS – Uwharrie Charter Academy’s baseball team won in different fashions in two games in the Class 1A state finals at Ting Stadium.

But stellar pitching was one of the staples as the Eagles repeated as state champions.

UCA pitcher Brett Smith kept Northside-Pinetown in check and the Eagles were boosted by Trey Kennedy’s go-ahead home run in a 6-1 victory Saturday afternoon against Northside-Pinetown, sweeping the best-of-3 series.

While UCA (28-6) needed an extra inning in the series opener Friday night, the Eagles had a less adventurous route in Game 2.

The season concluded with a school-record win total.

UCA’s Jake Hunter, who pitched a complete game in Game 1, was named the Most Valuable Player for the championship series.

Just like last year, Hunter and Smith handled all the pitching for UCA in the finals.

“The same two guys,” coach Rob Shore said. “I’ve thrown the same two pitchers and nobody else has thrown a single pitch because those guys were that good.”

UCA has won three state baseball titles. Like in 2019 and last year, it was another two-game sweep in the finals.

After taking the lead in Game 2, the Eagles had a couple of blunders in the field as Northside-Pinetown loaded the bases. Right fielder Carter Brown made a running catch to end that threat and the Eagles rolled the rest of the way.

Grat Dalton added a run-scoring single as the Eagles padded their lead. Kennedy and Walker Wilkins both scored two runs.

Smith, a junior, ended up with a four-hitter.

UCA pulled out a 2-1 victory in eight innings Friday night.

“It was tense, but that’s everything state championship games are supposed to be like,” Shore said. “In these big games like this, it’s how you finish and not how you start.”

Brown’s single – his third hit of the game – through a drawn-in infield knocked in the winning run, with Troy Carver crossing the plate.

In the bottom of the seventh, Brown led off with an infield single, stole second and scored the tying run on Landon Zephir’s two-out single.

“Third time through the lineup we finally got some timing,” Shore said. “It had everything to do with what Jake Hunter was doing on the mound. He was keeping us in the game.”

Hunter, a sophomore, was the winning pitcher with 11 strikeouts. Northside-Pinetown pitcher James Sawyer struck out 15.

Northside-Pinetown (22-8) was in the finals for the first time in 30 years.

UCA’s pitching in the postseason was up to the task. In some ways, that was needed more than a year ago because the Eagles encountered some stout opposing pitchers along the way the past few weeks.

“We saw some really good arms compared to what we saw last year,” Shore said. “We had to earn every single bit of it. Our guys stepped up every single time.”

By Randolph Record