Mother Nature is taking away some of Orange baseball’s traditional mileposts.

The annual trip to Fleming Stadium in Wilson was washed away last week, canceling the Panthers rematch against Perquimans and atone from a dismal outing in 2022 when the Pirates belted Orange 13-0 on its way to the 1A State Championship.

The Hilltop Invitational is a spring break tradition where the Panthers typically play three games against no conference opposition. Once again, torrential rain got in the way, limiting the event to a lone matchup against Northern Guilford last Tuesday.

If there was a downside in the game against the Nighthawks, it was that Orange didn’t have a base hit with a runner in scoring position.

But who needs a hit when you can simply knock it over the fence?

Senior Ryan Horton hit two home runs and the Panthers finished with four dingers to beat Northern Guilford 8-4 at Panthers Field.

Horton became the first Panther to hit two home runs in the same game since Dante DeFranco did it against Northern Durham on April 23, 2019, which was also the last time the Panthers had four home runs in a game. DeFranco is now a starter with the Charlotte 49ers.

Orange (6-3) completed a string of two wins over two days. On Monday, the Panthers defeated Western Alamance 10-1 to gain a split of a two-game series that started on March 19.

Senior Josiah Gibbs threw four innings of relief to earn his 13th career win. In 2023, when Orange’s top two pitchers Cross Clayton and Ryan Hench battled injury woes, Gibbs led the team with seven wins.

Northern Guilford’s R.J. Smith opened the game with a leadoff walk against freshman Orange starter Oliver Van Tiem. After stealing second, Smith advanced to third off a passed ball and scored off a sacrifice fly hit to the left field fence by Conner Roy, which was caught by Kayden Bradsher.

Orange erased that quickly with a five-run first inning. Wyatt Hedrick drew a walk. Then came the start of the home run parade from senior Cameron Guentensberger, who wacked a 3-1 fastball over the centerfield fence for a two-run blast. It was Guentensberger’s second career home run.

With two outs, Horton took a 2-0 curveball over the left field fence, the most shallow part of Orange’s park that makes it a nightmare for left-handed pitchers. It extended Orange’s lead to 3-0 and they weren’t done yet.

Senior Ryan Honeycutt, in his second start of the season after suffering a broken thumb playing basketball in February, grounded a single up the middle. Van Tiem then hit his second home run in as many games, this time to the left field power ally.

The Nighthawks built a threat in the second inning with pitcher Elliott Flowers and catcher Nathaniel Lorczak drawing walks. Kevin McField came on as a courtesy runner for Flowers while Thomas Hooks replaced Lorczak. McField got to third base, but Smith grounded out to Hedrick at third base to end the inning.

Horton added his second home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the third to increase Orange’s lead to 6-1.

In the fifth, Guentensberger manufactured a run with his legs. After getting hit in the midsection with a pitch, he rounded the bases and scored off three separate wild pitches.

Second baseman Henry Hoffman led off the sixth with a walk. After going to second on another wild pitch, Bradsher moved him over with a single. Hedrick hit a fly ball off a sacrifice fly to centerfield, which was caught by Smith, to score Hoffman.

Northern Guilford’s Elijah Breedlove and Murphy Rayle both scored in the seventh inning after they each drew walks. McField knocked in Breedlove with a sacrifice fly. Roy hit a line drive single to plate Rayle.



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