Kruse’s four goals, Orange’s defense carry lacrosse past Northwood 11-8 for 24th straight league win
Before the season even started, Orange lacrosse coach Chandler Zirkle knew the lineup he had returning for this spring would be, to put it mildly, formidable.
Only five seniors graduated from last year’s squad that reached the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship game for the first time in program history. Leading scorer Connor Kruse, face-off ace Jake Wimsatt, midfielder Joe Cady, goalkeeper Katie Wolter and defensive standouts Sascha Van Praag, Nick Cardone, Josiah Tisdale and Braden Hunt would all be back.
But what would be the best style to improve on a 17-3 record, the best in school history?
The answer is whatever can work on a given night. It’s really the difference between having a good team and having a good program.
On Monday night against their top conference rival, Northwood, Orange was a defensive juggernaut.
The defensive corps of Tisdale, Cardone, and Hunt held the Chargers to just three goals in the final 17:51 while Kruse scored all four of his goals in the second half as Orange defeated Northwood 11-8 at Auman Stadium. The Panthers are now in sole possession of first place in the Mid-Carolina Conference at 7-0. Orange is the two-time defending conference champion.
Senior Tigh Metheny scored two goals in the second half and finished with three points.
It’s Orange’s 24th straight win against a Mid-Carolina Conference opponent.
“I wanted this to be a defensive game,” Zirkle said after a celebratory postgame meeting in the Orange Fieldhouse. “We have the talent to do it.”
As much as Orange returns this season, the most pleasant surprise has been the freshmen who have filled in amid player absences. Freshman Matthew Macneir stepped in for Wimsatt and dominated the face-off circle. Macneir won all but two draws in the second quarter, which helped keep the Chargers scoreless for the final 12:57 of the first half.
Zirkle also used freshman Brett Clark, sophomore Kale Womble and senior Seth Hall on defense for another wave of players that the thinner Chargers had to reckon with.
Northwood (5-1, 3-1) got a hat trick from senior Taylor Laberge in the first quarter. Laberge scored off three bounce shots, the final one coming off a man-up goal with :57 remaining in the first quarter after Hunt was penalized for slashing. The Chargers led 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Orange responded with all three goals of the second stanza. Metheny scored off a feed from freshman Brandon Williams to even the game. After Laberge was penalized for an offside penalty, Orange notched its own man-up marker when Nevius dumped it in off an assist from Josh Cowan. With 7:47 remaining in the first half, oophomore Luke Nevius unleashed a rocket from 17 yards away that beat Northwood freshman goalkeeper James Flanagan to put Orange ahead 5-3 at halftime.
Despite the halftime lead, Northwood longstick defenseman William Johnson did a stellar job defending Kruse, who was held to one assist in the first half.
Northwood’s defense opened the second half by keeping the Orange defense off of its rhythm. The Panthers were held without a goal for 16:13. The Chargers’ Will Smith and Carson Fortunes each scored unassisted markers to even the game.
Williams came back with his first goal off an assist from Cady. Kruse got on track when a pass from Cady was knocked down in front of the net. Cruse won the ground ball and dunked it in to push Orange’s lead to 7-5.
Metheny opened the second half when he found Kruse on the doorstep for his second goal of the game. After Smith added his second goal off a gorgeous feed from defenseman Gianmarc Byers, Cady drew a double-team and dumped it off to a wide-open Kruse to put the Panthers ahead 9-6. Cady and Kruse would add two more goals in the final three minutes.
Orange will travel to Carrboro on Wednesday before heading to Wilmington and facing Laney on Friday.
Guentensberger earns save, Nordan’s 2-run single helps Orange end Wilson Curse, beats South Central 7-6
WILSON–For a change, Orange baseball’s ride home from Wilson was a pleasant one.
Games inside Historic Fleming Stadium haven’t simply been loses for Orange. There have been ugly performances. Last year’s 13-0 loss to Perquimans, the eventual 1A State Champions, was so ignominious, it led Coach Jason Knapp and his staff to do some soul searching that eventually led to a conference championship.
This year, Knapp came into Fleming Stadium with a sour taste in his mouth following a tight 4-2 loss to Western Alamance last Thursday. The obstacles going into Saturday were high ones for Orange. It was their third game in five days with their top two pitchers still battling nagging injuries.
Knapp called up a junior varsity hurler to start, used a senior who had never pitched in a varsity game to carry the middle innings, relied on a senior making his first appearance on the mound this season for the final six outs and somehow came away with a victory over the defending Big East Conference champions.
Junior Connor Nordan lined a two-run single to left field to score Elijah Santos and Jackson Berini to carry a three-run fourth inning and the Panthers held on to win 7-6 over South Central. It was a strong all around performance from senior Cameron Guentensberger, who went 2-for-4 at the plate and finished the game with his first career save after he threw two perfect innings in the sixth and seventh.
It would be erroneous to say that there was a joyous Orange dugout afterwards. Neither the Panthers not the Falcons could sit in their respective dugouts because Fleming Stadium in under renovations. Teams were required to sit on benches along the first and third base lines. The grandstand was also blocked off, forcing fans to watch from picnic areas.
It was still a joyous moment for Knapp, who had lost in two previous trips to Wilson.
“I looked at (Jackson) Berini and (Ryan) Hench and Guentensberger and (Ty) Walker and (Ryan) Horton and told them they all did something their older brothers couldn’t do. Get a win here,” Knapp said. “It feels good.”
Joey Berini, Cooper Hench, Colin Guentensberger (who was in attendance on Saturday), Will Walker and Cooper Hench played on Orange’s 2019 team that was thumped by Wilson Fike 6-0 at Fleming Stadium. Davis Horton, now a catcher at Rockingham Community College, was on last year’s team.
It was the first carer win for Walker, a senior threw the second and third innings after the Falcons scored two runs in the opening inning.
South Central (5-4) reached the 3A Eastern Regional Championship series last spring, where they lost to South Brunswick.
Trailing 2-0, Orange loaded the bases in the second inning against South Central starter Nicholas Mayo. Connor Nordan drew a walk while Guentensberger lined a single to left filed. Cross Clayton walked, leading to Ryan Horton lining a single to the game in left field to tie the game. With two out, Jackson Berini smoked a double over the head of shortstop Dalinh Nguyen-Brown to bring in Clayton and Joey Pounds, who was running for Horton, to put Orange ahead 4-2.
Berini, Orange’s leadoff batter, is second on the team with ten RBIs through eight games.
Walker, in his first pitching performance, calmly set down the Falcons in the second courtesy of a strong play by Ryan Honeycutt, making his season debut at first base. With one out, Honeycutt snatched a grounder hit by Falcon designated hitter Jackson Brunch, flipped it to Berini to retire Mayo and threw to Walker covering first for a 3-6-1 double play.
Orange (7-1) pushed its lead to 7-2 with four runs in the fourth inning. Clayton drew a leadoff walk and went to second after a sacrifice bunt by Horton. With two out, Berini reached on an effort. Elijah Santos, batting second, lined a single to left field to score Clayton. Following a walk to David Waitt, Nordon sent a hard grounder to left field for a two-run single.
Nordan has RBIs in seven of Orange’s eight games.
The Panthers had to hold on as the Falcons mounted a comeback. They started with a two-out rally in the fourth when pinch-hitter Marcus Byrd was hit by a pitch. Bunch walked and catcher Josh Britt singled. Nguyen-Brown drew a bases-loaded walk.
In the fifth, Mason Hobbs lined a leadoff single to left against Orange’s Josiah Gibbs. After a strikeout of David Horvath, Brody Stallings lined a single to left. Scooter Waters belted a double that would have left most high school ballparks, but not in Fleming Stadium with a 335-foot right field line. Waters had to settle for a double and Hobbs scored. New pitcher Carter Hale grounded out to Best, which brought in Stallings. Waters then made it a one-run game on a throwing error and the Panthers lead was reduced to 7-6.
Guentensberger came in cold from centerfield to throw the sixth inning, but induced three long flyouts to retire the Falcons in order for the first time all night. Knapp could have gone with Pounds, who replaced Guentensberger in centerfield, to throw the seventh. But he stuck with Guentensberger, who delivered another 1-2-3 inning in the 7th against the heart of the Falcons order.
It was Guentensberger’s first career save.
“He’s got great poise,” Knapp said. “He just seems to be around the strike zone every time we go to him since he was a freshman. He’s mature beyond his years. We weren’t to him in the sixth and things went smoothly. We went right back to him because you don’t want to give that team an opportunity.”
Orange will resume conference action in Burlington tonight to face Walter Williams.
Orange lacrosse’s Matthew MacNeir and Brandon WIlliams discuss win over Western Alamance
The Orange men’s lacrosse team has won two consecutive Mid-Carolina Conference championships. With returning player like Connor Kruse, Joe Cady, Jake Wimsatt goalkeeper Katie Walter, Tigh Metheney, Sascha Van Pragg and Alden Cathey back, the Panthers lost only five seniors from last year’s team that reached the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship game in the state playoffs. However, freshmen who arrived fresh from Orange Middle School and Gravelly Hill Middle School have made an instant impact in big games for the Panthers amid some injuries and other player absences. Matthew Macneir won 15 of 21 faceoffs in Orange’s 13-9 win over Western Alamance on Wednesday night at Auman Stadium. Another freshman, Brandon Williams, scored a goal and scooped up four ground balls against the Warriors. Last Tuesday, the Panthers defeated Cedar Ridge 15-0 at Red Wolves Stadium. Williams had a goal against the Red Wolves. Coming up tonight, Orange will host Northwood in a crucial matchup at Auman Stadium. Opening face off will be at 6PM. You can hear the game on Hillsboroughsports.com.
Cedar Ridge softball’s Kimber Shambley & Charlotte Lowry discuss win over Northwood
The Cedar RIdge softball team claimed a pair of wins last week over teams from Chatham County. On Wednesday, Cedar RIdge rolled past Seaford 23-1 in Pittsboro., Sophomore Kimber Shambley hit her first home run as a Red Wolves with a two-run blast in the fourth inning. Shambley went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Another sophomore, Charlotte Lowry, went 1-for-2 with a single. On Friday, the Red Wolves defeated Northwood 6-4 in Hillsborough. Lowry started as the pitcher and threw a complete game to earn the win. She is the younger sister of former Cedar Ridge shortstop Ava Lowry, who is now playing with North Carolina Wesleyan. Shambley, Lowry, Reagan Simmons and freshman Mia Best make up the core of a young Cedar RIdge team playing in a deep Central Carolina Conference. Freshmen Laci Sykes and Victoria Matthews have also seen time early on this season as the Red Wolves are off to a 6-2 start. Cedar RIdge will host crosstown rival Orange on Tuesday night. You can hear that game on Hillsboroughsports.com.