By: Evan Moesta
On Saturday afternoon, Cherryville High School won their first 1A State Baseball Championship since 2008 with a 7-4 victory over two-time defending state champion Whiteville High School. The Ironmen won both games of the best-of-three series at Five County Stadium.
The Ironmen, and Wolfpack encountered four ties, and four lead changes in the game. Noah Eaker did it all for Cherryville on Saturday afternoon as his bat, and right arm proved to be too much for Whiteville. With the scored tied at 4-4 in the top of the sixth inning, and two men out, Ryan Owens reached on an error, and Randall Long was issued an intentional pass for the Ironmen. That set the stage for Eaker who rocked a Brooks Baldwin offering to the wall in right field for a two run triple to put Cherryville ahead for good at 6-4.
Eaker gave himself a lead to close as he entered with a runner on first base and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth inning. A 4-6 putout started the junior's second relief appearance in as many games. He picked off the runner that he had inherited at first base, and for good measure the right-hander broke off a breaking ball for strike three to get Cherryville within three outs of a state championship victory.
With a now 7-4 lead following a seventh inning RBI from Austin Treadway, Noah Eaker hurled a 1-2-3 seventh inning for the save. By inducing a series ending flyout to Hunter Harwood, Eaker clinched the state title for the Ironmen, and Most Valuable Player honors for himself. In the two games that were played, Noah Eaker went 1-0 on the mound with a save in 2.1 innings pitched. At the plate in game two of the series, he went 3-4 with a triple, and three runs batted in.
After a walk-off victory in game one on Friday night, it took Scott Heavner's bunch only three batters to establish a lead over Whiteville. Austin Treadway, and Jonathan McSwain started the top of the first inning with singles for Cherryville. Ryan Owens followed with a single of his own, and it scored Treadway for a 1-0 lead. After Randall Long walked to load the bases with nobody out, Wolfpack starter Brooks Baldwin got Noah Eaker to ground into a fielders choice but another run would score to make it 2-0 Ironmen.
Whiteville answered immediately in the home half of the first inning. As he has done for the Wolfpack all postseason long, Mackenzie Gore kickstarted the Whiteville offense with a single to centerfield. After a walk to Taylor Smith, Conner Grainger grounded into a fielders choice at second base. On the throw to first for a potential double play, Cherryville's Will Walker was unable to handle the throw, and it allowed Gore to motor home to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
The Wolfpack would take their first lead of the afternoon in the bottom of the second inning. Hunter Harwood doubled to left field off of Cherryville's Ray Sensing to start the frame. Whiteville's next batter, Grayson Ward singled to right field to tie the game at 2-2. Dylan Lawson followed by smacking a ground ball to first base, Cherryville was unable to record an out on the play after an error. Ward was able to score on the error after stealing second base earlier in Lawson's at-bat. After two innings, Whiteville led 3-2.
Cherryville responded right away to make the Wolfpack lead short-lived. Randall Long, and Noah Eaker got the inning going with a pair of singles, and after a sacrifice bunt to move them into scoring position, Carlton Jackson lifted a fly ball to right field to score Long from third on a sacrifice, tying the game at 3-3.
After losing the lead on the mound a half inning prior, Brooks Baldwin started the bottom of the third for Whiteville with a double to gap in right center field. Baldwin's courtesy runner, Nydir Carr kept the roller coaster ride of a game going with a steal of third base, and a run scored on a Hunter Harwood sacrifice fly to right field that regained the lead for the Wolfpack at 4-3 heading to the fourth inning.
It seemed as if anything that one team could do, the other one would be able to answer. Cherryville tied the game in the top of the fourth at 4-4. Dayne Homesley, and Austin Treadwell started the inning with singles to left field. An error from Hunter Cartrette in right field on a fly ball from Jonathan McSwain loaded the bases with nobody out in the Ironmen fourth. Ryan Owens brought home the equalizer when he grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to score Homesley from third base.
Cherryville High School finished the season with a record of 30-4, they have now won nine state championships in school history. Whiteville falls to 26-5 on the season after making their third straight appearance in a 1A State Championship series.