It’s spring break this week across Orange County Schools and Jason Knapp could use the rest.
To say he doesn’t sleep well after conference losses would be inaccurate. Usually, he doesn’t sleep at all.
Such was the case last Tuesday when his Orange baseball team dropped a 1-0 decision to Walter Williams in Burlington. The Panthers mustered two measly hits and only got one runner to third base. Despite a road trip back to Hillsborough, by 6 o’clock the next morning, Knapp was mowing his infield with bleary eyes and in no mood to mince words during his weight training classes later that day.
“I was in a bad mood and I was probably a little hard on the guys on Wednesday,” Knapp said. “I have a lot of them in weight training class and I was just not a happy camper. I have a lot of my players in my classes and I was cranky.”
His players responded by taking the final contest of a two-game set with Williams on Friday, with Orange winning a 1-0 decision in another game where offense was as scarce as finding the good parts in a Maroon 5 song. The Panthers again mustered only two hits, but Jackson Berini scored off a dropped fly ball to left field hit by Connor Nordan in the fourth inning.
On Tuesday night, the Panther bats came alive against its crosstown rival.
Senior David Waitt went 3-for-4 with four RBIs while junior catcher Ryan Honeycutt had his first varsity home run as Orange defeated Cedar Ridge 12-2 in five innings at Orange High Field.
Cedar Ridge’s B.J. Thornton went 2-for-3, including an RBI single in the fifth that actually reduced the Panthers lead to 5-2. Orange scored seven runs in the bottom-of-the-fifth to earn its third run-rule win of the season.
Cedar Ridge hasn’t won at Orange since 2012. The Panthers have won eight straight in the series overall.
Orange (10-2, 3-2 in the Central Carolina Conference) is now tied with Person for first place in the CCC. On Tuesday night in Pittsboro, Northwood defeated the Rockets 1-0 off a walkoff single by Jacob Garrett.
The Panthers played without senior Ryan Hench, who missed his eighth straight game. Junior Josiah Gibbs earned his third win, striking out six over four innings. The Red Wolves mounted its biggest threat when they loaded the bases in the fourth with Orange leading 3-0. Quinn Finnegan and Thornton each lined singles to left field. Grant McGuffey was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out. Third baseman Will Tippin sent a hard grounder to third that was misplayed, leading to Finnegan scoring. The bases remained loaded with no outs, but Gibbs struck out the next two batters. Orange centerfielder Cameron Guentensberger caught a flyball for the final out and contained the damage to one run.
Waitt, in his third year as a starter in right field, had the game’s biggest moments early. Moments after Nicholas Aitkin turned a 6-4-3 double play for Cedar Ridge, Waitt reached on a cue shot to third base. With Nordan at the plate, Waitt advanced to second off a passed ball, went to third off a wild pitch and scored when Nordan legged out an infield hit on a grounder hit to the hole in left field.
in the second, Cross Clayton was hit by a pitch. After Joey Pounds moved Clayton over to second with a sacrifice bunt, Jackson Berini reached on a fielder’s choice where Cedar Ridge’s Grant McGuffey threw out Neo Best at second for the second out. Elijah Santos walked and Waitt sent a worm burner to left field for a two-run single that plated Clayton and Berini and increased Orange’s lead to 3-0.
Before Cedar Ridge loaded the bases in the fourth, Gibbs struck out four Red Wolves over the first three innings. In the second, McGuffey walked and reached third after a single by Will Tippin. The Red Wolves tried to bring in McGuffey on a double steal, but Berini threw a strike to Honeycutt at the plate to retire McGuffey.
Cedar Ridge returned the favor in the bottom of the third. Cameron Guentensberger reached on a leadoff single, he reached third on a wild pitch. Cross Clayton sent a chopper to Tippin, who trapped Guentensberger in a rundown where catcher David Schoof tagged him out at the plate.
Orange increased its lead to 5-2 in the fourth with more station-to-station ball. Neo Best drew a leadoff walk against Thornton, stole second, went to third following a groundout by Berini to McGuffey. Santos sent a flyball to centerfield that was snagged by Isaac Anderson to score Best off a sacrifice fly. Once again, Waitt came up big with two out. He reached on an error and stole second. Connor Nordan laced his team-high 21st RBI to left field to make it 5-1 Orange.
Following Thornton’s RBI single, Orange broke the game open in the fifth inning. It started with a thunderous shot by Ryan Honeycutt over the left field fence that nearly hit the football/lacrosse field house across the caraway. Clayton followed with a double that hugged the third base line, which led to the first of three pitching changes in the fifth.
After reliever Mason Cates notched a strikeout, Best walked. Berini was intentionally walked after Clayton got to third base on a passed ball. Santos drew a bases loaded walk to score Clayton. Waitt groves a line drive single to drive in Berini (who leads the team with 18 runs) and Santos. Nordan, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, lined a single to left to bring in Santos. With two out, Honeycutt narrowly missed his second home run of the inning with a fly ball that landed just shy of the fence. It was good enough for a two-run double to end the game.
Orange will travel to Cedar Ridge on Thursday night at 6PM to complete the two-game series.