It's on: FCS, RMA advance to state baseball championship series

1 of 6

Faith Christian’s Chase Johnson runs towards home to score Tuesday during their home game against Westminster Catawba Christian.


Sports Writer

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

It’s happening.

Game(s) on.

The Faith Christian and Rocky Mount Academy baseball teams will play for the NCISAA 2-A state championship in a best-of-three series held Friday and Saturday at FCS. Game 1 will be on Friday, with Game 2 and a possible Game 3 both held on Saturday.

Faith Christian, winners of the past two 2-A state championships, will face rival RMA with a three-peat on the line. The Eagles finally arrived on the championship stage after losing in the semifinals the past two seasons, and in the second round in 2016.

The teams haven’t played in the postseason since the spring of 2015, where RMA won and advanced, only to lose to eventual state champion Arendell Parrott Academy. And the teams got here by winning games on opposite ends of the anxiety spectrum.

RMA won in five innings with a run-rule, 16-5, victory over Harrells Christian Academy. FCS won, 6-4, over Westminster Catawba, lifted by the bat of Chase Johnson who hit a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.

Alex Crosby started the FCS seventh with a stand-up double to center, and Johnson came to the plate with no outs.

“They had a mound visit, and (FCS coach Ronnie Beddingfield) was talking and he was like, ‘What do you think about bunting right here?’” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Well I haven’t gotten a fastball all night,’ and he said that he’ll let me swing at one.

“He was kind of joking, but it was on the table. I wanted to come up big for my teammates and I got a fastball.”

Johnson indeed came up big. His blast cleared the batter’s eye in center field, and once it left his bat the right-handed slugger (he has a team-high four homers) threw up his hands as the Patriots spilled out of the dugout.

“We’ve seen him hit it over that in batting practice before,” pitcher Garrett Pannell said. “We knew it was gone once it left the bat.”

Both teams had to work out of jams in order to set up the climactic finish. FCS had bases loaded and no outs in the fifth but couldn’t score to break a 4-4 tie. Later, the Indians threatened in the top of the seventh and had runners on second and third with no outs.

Pannell, the Patriots closer, worked out of the tight spot by getting a pop out to short left, a strikeout, and a foul out to catcher Trysten Edwards.

For RMA, the Eagles had a rough first inning before bouncing back to take command of the game. The visiting No. 8 seed Harrells Christian had just knocked off Class 2-A top seed in Westchester Country Day on Monday, and didn’t have the pitching to quiet the Eagles lineup.

“We always know Harrells can hit,” RMA coach Cameron Ramsey said. “But luckily for us they had to burn a lot of their pitching to get that win yesterday. And we settled in after the first inning. The guys just came into the dugout and went to work.”

RMA starter Isaiah Thomas had to get seven outs in the first inning, as the defense made a trio of errors, and a passed ball on a dropped third strike allowed another batter to reach. Harrells scored three runs in the inning, but RMA pounded out nine runs in the bottom half and cruised to a win.

Will Stewart had three hits and two RBIs, and was a homer short of the cycle. Ethan Davis, Thomas, Jacob Braddy and Austin overton each had 2 RBIs in the win.

“I’m sitting comfortable right now,” said Stewart, a UNC Chapel Hill commit. “I’m not trying to let any fastballs get by early in the count. I’m trying to stay aggressive and try to drive the ball into the gap.”

Softball playoffs

Emily Winstead was anything but fair on Tuesday.

The Rocky Mount Academy freshman went untouched in the circle and guided the Eagles to a 10-0 win over visiting Salem Baptist Christian in the opening round of the NCISAA 2-A softball playoffs.

The top-seeded Eagles earned the run-rule win in five innings by scoring in every frame but the second. Katie Oliver went 2-for-4 with a team-high four RBIs for RMA, while Winstead added an RBI on a run-scoring double. Also, Gabbi Stewart had two hits.

The No. 8 Vikings didn’t record a hit, but they did have five baserunners. Winstead issued five walks in the game, but was able to mop up her free passes with 15 strikeouts. The Eagles defense didn’t need to work as each of the outs were recorded by Winstead.

RMA advances to host Friday’s quarterfinals. The Eagles will play No. 5 Wayne Christian at 10 a.m.

Wayne Christian 5, Faith Christian 1

Faith Christian’s season ended on Tuesday in the first round of the NCISAA 2-A playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Patriots (7-10) lost to the visiting No. 5 Eagles (8-3). FCS would have played Rocky Mount Academy in the quarterfinals with a win.