If the 2023 Central Carolina Conference baseball season was a movie, it would be called “Coaches Plan, Mother Nature Laughs.”
For instance, when Orange coach Jason Knapp released his scheduled in January, he had seven games scheduled for Friday nights.
A grand total of two of them went according to schedule. The other five were either postponed or canceled because of rain.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to scheduling headaches that Knapp and Cedar Ridge coach Bryson Massey have faced for the past ten weeks. On Monday night, the CCC Tournament was supposed to begin but didn’t since the regular season still isn’t over.
Last Friday, CCC Athletic Directors voted to streamline the tournament from seven teams down to four. Orange will host Cedar Ridge on Wednesday night in one semifinal. #2 Walter Williams will host #3 Person in Burlington.
The CCC Tournament championship game will be on Thursday night at the higher-seeded team.
Orange will officially end its regular season tonight when they host Eastern Alamance for Senior Night. It will be the final regular season home game for seniors Ryan Hench, Jackson Berini, Joey Pounds, David Waitt, Connor Nordan, Neo Best, Kent Melvin, Ryan Doherty, and Ty Walker.
The Panthers have already wrapped up the CCC regular season championship after beating Eastern Alamance 10-1 in Mebane. Under a seven-team format, Orange had a bye into the semifinals while the other six teams would have had to play on Monday. That granted Orange an advantage in pitching.
Now, in order to win the CCC Tournament, Orange will have to play three games in three days.
Not to mention that Cedar Ridge is hungry for a win over its crosstown rival. The Red Wolves haven’t won at Orange High Field since 2012, but they came very close last year in the 3A State Playoffs.
In the opening round, the Red Wolves led 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning before Cameron Guentensberger scored David Waitt on a squeeze play to even the game. In the ninth inning, Davis Horton drove in Conner Funk with a walkoff single to centerfield.
With a state playoff birth already in the bag, Cedar Ridge will be playing to improve its seeding. The Red Wolves are currently #23 in the 3A East RPI rankings. If the season ended today, Cedar Ridge would face Northern Lakes Champion Carrboro on the road in the opening round of the state playoffs.
Cedar Ridge rallied from a 9-5 deficit to defat Roxboro Community School 10-9 last week at Optimist Park in Roxboro. The Red Wolves scored five runs in the seventh inning and got the game-winning run when Will Tippin was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Landon Dalehite.
For the first time since the beginning of the season, Orange has a healthy pitching staff. Against Eastern Alamance last week, Hench made his first pitching appearance since March 8. He struck out six over three shutout innings. Junior Josiah Gibbs earned his sixth win of the season, throwing three innings of middle relief. Gibbs also struck out six and allowed only one hit.
Orange is currently the #2 seed in the RPI rankings and will hope for a better conference tournament result than last year. In 2022, Person upset Orange 4-0 in the CCC semifinals in Hillsborough. Person’s Dylan England held Orange scoreless in five innings of relief. The Panthers mustered only two hits.
Against Eastern Alamance on Tuesday night, the Panthers will go for a 20-win regular season. The last time the Panthers won 20 games in only the regular season, it was the 2014 season when Bryse Wilson was a sophomore. The Panthers had to play a majority of its home games that season on the road because of an ice storm that did heavy damage to Panther Field in early March.