Pike outslugs Blessed Trinity to advance

ZEBULON — The Pike County Pirates had had a few near-misses through the years, but the state quarterfinals always were the limit to their season.

Until now.

Pike County got home runs from Zack Woods, Blake Edwards and Chris Long and outslugged visiting Blessed Trinity 11-7, winning the deciding game of the Class AA quarterfinal series Wednesday.

“It was like a ceiling that was keeping us down,” Pike County coach Don Hansen said, “but I kind of had the feeling that we were going to break through this year.”

Pike will appear in the semifinals for the first time in a series that is scheduled to start Monday against Lovett.

Blessed Trinity was eliminated despite outscoring the Pirates 29-20 and belting 10 home runs in the three games.

The Pirates (28-5) who dropped Game 1 18-4 before rallying to win the final two games of the series, fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, when Blessed Trinity’s Ross Hampton belted a two-run homer.

But Woods led off the bottom of the third with a homer to center field, sparking a six-run outburst that chased Blessed Trinity starter Brian Kehner.

“We had high expectations for Game 3,” Pike County senior Kody Adams said. “We knew we had better pitching than them for Game 3, and we didn’t roll over.”

Edwards’ three-run shot gave Pike County the lead later in the third.

Blessed Trinity (24-10) got a two-run homer from Jeff Sidlovsky in the fourth, when the Titans scored three runs to pull even.

Pike County took the lead for good on Nate Ferrell’s two-run double in the bottom of the fourth, and after Blessed Trinity’s Nathaniel Maggio homered to make the score 8-7 in the top of the fifth.

But Pike County catcher Chris Long, who had a brief verbal confrontation with Maggio just before Maggio’s homer in the fifth, put the game out of reach with a three-run homer to left on an 0-2 pitch, a line drive that cleared the fence with plenty to spare and landed in a playground beyond the fence.

“It was off-speed, and I got what I wanted,” said Long, who homered in all three games and finished the series with eight RBIs. “I just wanted to give my team some cushion.”

Right-hander Lance Shelton gutted out a complete game for the Pirates, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and surviving to pick up the win.

“He did exactly what the game dictated,” Hansen said. “I had three other guys begging for the ball, but he’s a senior and he pitched in some pressure situations for us last year. He kept telling me he had it.”