The only troubling part about Friday night at Orange High is that both the softball and baseball games can’t be enjoyed separately.
Instead, the Orange-Cedar Ridge baseball rivalry, such as it is, will start at 6 PM. The softball rivalry, which has only added in intensity in recent years, will start at 6:30 at the adajacent softball field just down the hill.
The ingredients are there that makes any sports fan interested. Drama. Finality. A crosstown rivalry. Intensity. Standing room only crowds And a pennant chase sprinkled into both games.
In fairness, the stakes in the Orange-CRHS baseball game drawfs in comparison to the softball matchup. Cedar Ridge baseball’s chances of making the state playoffs are virtually nil, unless they can win next week’s Big 8 tournament. Orange has already captured a share of the Big 8 Championship after winning at CRHS 7-0 on Tuesday, where Bryse Wilson improved to 7-2 after his fourth shutout of the year. If Dean Dease’s Panthers win on senior night, they will claim the top seed for the Big 8 Conference going into the state tournament, regardless of how next week’s conference tournament ends up.
The words “Senior Night” for Orange baseball is fitting since it will be the final regular season game for Wilson, Brad Debo, Cameron Mehl, Austin Sykes, Jamil Jordan, Cole Campanile, Johnny Flynn, Chandler Compton, and Landon Riley. But it will hardly be the final time those ten players will play at Panther Field. It all likelihood, they have two games remaining, minimum.
What can’t be ignored is the effect that Wilson, Debo, etc. have had on the distinguished history of Orange baseball. Since starting as freshman, Wilson and Debo have been a duo like Wilson & Stiller (just without making Zoolander 2), Dre & Ice Cube, Fey & Poehler and Hall & Oates.
They are the flagship players for the winningest four-year class in school history, going 87-14 since 2013.
However, that hasn’t protected Orange from falling victim to upsets this season due to an inconsistent offense and lack of pitching depth. Last week’s 9-8 loss to Oxford Webb in 8 innings kept Chapel Hill’s hopes of gaining a share of the Big 8 regular season championship alive. Orange will enter the final night of the regular season 9-2. The Tigers played its final conference game of the season last week and is in the clubhouse 9-3. If CRHS pulls the upset, there will be a tiebreaker between the Tigers and the Panthers after the game. The winner will get a bye through to the semifinals in next week’s Big 8 Championship, while the 2nd seed faces Southern Durham in the first round.
The stakes in the softball game are much higher after Tuesday night. Cedar Ridge defeated the Panthers 8-2, only the second loss of the season for the Panthers. Cedar Ridge pitcher Rivers Andrews threw a two-hitter, striking out 13.
Members of the Northwood softball team realized how vital the game was. After a victory over Southern Durham, several Chargers stopped by Cedar Ridge to watch the finish of CRHS vs. OHS, knowing full well that if Orange lost, the Chargers would benefit greatly.
Orange and Northwood are now tied for first in the Big 8 at 9-2. Cedar Ridge is 8-3 and will be in a spoiler role on Thursday night. If Orange wins, they will claim a share of the regular season championship. A win over CRHS and a Southern upset over Northwood (the Spartans are winless) would give the Panthers the Big 8 crown outright going into next week’s conference tournament.