Now this was a 16th birthday celebration.
Beating Orange for the first time since 2012 would have been enough for Phil Berger on his birthday. The fact that he threw a one-hit shutout and held the Panthers to only three baserunners just made the birthday cake waiting for him at home taste a little sweeter.
Perhaps it was fate or karma, but Cedar Ridge’s 6-0 win over Orange was also its 16th win this season, the most by the school this decade. They finish the regular season 16-6, 7-5 in the Big 8 Conference.
Berger has won his last five starts, improving to 7-2 with a 1.83 ERA. Even the lone hit he yielded was debatable, a two-out high chopper by Orange’s Dalton Brown to 2nd baseman Jake DeFranco, who knocked it down with his glove hand and had no chance to make a throw to first.
Aside from that, all Orange could muster offensively was Caige Clayton and Jason Slaughter reaching after getting hit by pitches. The Panthers, who had scored 28 runs in its last four games, didn’t have two runners on base all day.
The six Red Wolves players who commemorated senior night waited their whole careers to beat Orange, and their time finally came on Wednesday. It came one night after Orange pounded the Red Wolves 9-1 to end Cedar Ridge’s nine-game winning streak.
In the 2nd inning, Senior Brandon Andrews started the scoring with a single over second base that scored Sailor Ramos, who finished 2-for-2 with 2 runs scored and an RBI.
Cedar Ridge added two more in the fourth, again getting production from the bottom of the order. Freshman Jake DiFranco, who finished 2-for-2 with an RBI, singled. After Andrews walked, designated hitter Adam Chnupa lined a fastball off the glove of Orange shortstop Joey Berini into centerfield, scoring Andrew and DiFranco to increase the Cedar Ridge lead to 3-0.
Ramos, who led off the fourth with a walk, scored off a sacrifice fly from Jake DiFranco.
More insurance arrived for the Red Wolves in the 6th when Dante DiFranco, a sophomore who leads the team in hits, scored on a squeeze play following a perfect bunt by Berger. Two batters later, Ramos laced a single to the gap in right field, bringing in Chris Cox.
Orange finished the regular season 12-12, 8-4 in the Big 8. The Panthers will likely make the playoffs and may finish in sole possession of 2nd place in the Big 8 if Chapel Hill loses to Northwood on Thursday.