Orange Baseball

Orange baseball’s Cross Clayton and Ryan Honeycutt discuss win over Williams

Orange senior pitcher Cross Clayton improved to 13-0 lifetime against Central Conference opponents as the Panthers defeated Walter Williams 4-0 on Tuesday night in Hillsborough. Clayton needed only 78 pitchers for his third career complete game shutout. Clayton is now 4-0 with a 0.84 earned run average. Senior first baseman Ryan Honeycutt continued his tear by going 2-for-3 with a home run. In the first inning, Honeycutt sent a double to the left field fence to score Kayden Bradsher and Wyatt Hedrick. In the third inning, Honeycutt added a solo home run to left field. Honeycutt, who missed the first six games of the season with a thumb injury suffered during basketball season, went 4-for-7 in the series against Cedar Ridge as the Panthers swept the Red Wolves. Honeycutt, in eight games, is hitting .455 with two home runs, four doubles and nine RBIs. Including its win over Heritage on Wednesday night, the Panthers have won seven in a row. They currently sit atop the Central Conference with a 4-1 record and are looking for its fourth straight conference championship. The Panthers will travel to Walter Williams on Friday night to face the Bulldogs in Burlington. Orange will face Person in a two-game series next week to start the second half of the season. Orange is currently 11-3.

Heartbreak again: Horton’s double sparks 9-run sixth inning in Orange’s 10-4 win over Cedar Ridge

By now, losses to Orange have followed a familiar pattern for Cedar Ridge baseball that is either cruel or amazing, depending on your perspective.

The Red Wolves bolt ahead, look strong through the middle innings, but their defensive falters late and the Panthers take advantage to ultimately win.

There were reasons to believe the string would end for Cedar Ridge on Tuesday night, Junior Quinn Finnegan not only shut out Orange’s offense for the opening four innings. He retired 12 straight batters on just 38 pitches.

Yet Orange would find a way again. Senior Ryan Honeycutt, making his third start since suffering a broken thumb playing basketball at Cedar Ridge in February, lined a double to left field to leadoff the fifth inning. Eventually, the Panthers would score nine runs in the sixth inning and go on to beat the Red Wolves 10-4 in front of a packed Red Wolves Field on the warmest day of 2024.

Orange starting pitcher Cross Clayton earned his 16th career win, despite trailing for most of his outing. Clayton struck out eight and is now 12-0 in his career against conference opponents. It was his fifth win against Cedar Ridge in five lifetime appearances.

It was Orange’s eleventh straight win over its crosstown rival. Orange (7-3, 3-1 in the Central Conference) now leads the Central Conference. The other five teams in the league are not in conference competition this week because of spring break.

The Red Wolves got off to a promising start. Designated hitter Kevin Jones sent a liner to right field for the game’s first hit with one out in the second inning. Grant McGuffey followed with a screamer to nearly the exact same spot at Jones’ icebreaker. Jones advanced to third following McGuffey’s double. Sophomore Aiden Ryan sent a 2-2 fastball to left field, where it landed in front of Kayden Bradsher. Jones scored and McGuffey followed to put the Red Wolves ahead. It could have easily been more after Landon Dalehite sent a cue shot that was thrown away by catcher Ryan Horton, advancing Ryan to third. Honeycutt caught a pop-up in foul ground in right field, and Clayton notched a strikeout to limit the Red Wolves lead to 2-0.

Finnegan, who came into the game 2-0 with one save, only ran up three balls to two Orange batters in the opening four innings, striking out three.

Honeycutt lined a double to left field to break up Finnegan’s perfect game to start the fifth. After Horton grounded out to Grant McGuffey at second base, Honeycutt moved over to third. Freshman Oliver Van Tiem belted a single to left field to cut the Red Wolves lead in half.

Through the first five innings, the Panthers didn’t force the Red Wolves into mistakes. That immediately changed in the sixth when Elijah Santos sent a hard grounder down the third base line. Santos took an extra base as Cedar Ridge had trouble getting the ball back in the infield. Bradsher sent a grounder to shortstop, which was bobbled, allowing Santos to beat out a throw to third. Wyatt Hedick laid down a bunt where Finnegan threw to second, where it was ruled that Bradsher beat it out on a disputed call. Santos scored the game-tying run. Centerfielder Cameron Guentensberger parked a deep fly ball beyond the reach of Dalehite in centerfield to score Bradsher and put the Panthers in the lead for good.

After Honeycutt walked, Horton drilled a low line drive to left field for another double, scoring Hedrick and Guentensberger. That lead to Finnegan being replaced on the mound. As Cedar Ridge coach Bryson Massey was on the hill, he heard something from several of the Orange reserves inside the dugout across the first base line that he didn’t like, which led to a verbal back-and-forth, Massey being ejected and both benches being warned by the home plate umpire.

Orange sent 14 batters to the plate in the sixth inning. Henry Hoffman walked with the bases-loaded, while Clayton and Hedrick were both hit by pitchers with the bases loaded to score runs.

Cedar Ridge freshman John Grove, who was making his third start as catcher, reached on a infield single in the seventh. Finnegan hammered a triple to right centerfield to score Grove, then scored the final run off a wild pitch.

The two-game series will continue at Orange High on Friday.

Horton hits two home runs as Orange baseball beats Northern Guilford in Hilltop Invitational

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.



Orange baseball’s Jaden Bradsher & Oliver Van Tiem discuss win over Western Alamance

It was a strong bounce back performance for the Orange baseball team in the second game of its series against Western Alamance on Monday night. After losing to the Warriors last week in Elon, the Panthers defeated the Warriors 10-1 for its first Central Conference victory of the season. Freshman Kayden Bradsher started the game with a triple to right centerfield and would score the opening run off a groundout by Cameron Guentensberger. Freshman Oliver Van Tiem hit the first home run of his Panther career with a solo blast in the second inning. Orange jumped on mistakes by the Warriors, who committed six errors. Bradsher has been the leadoff hitter for all nine of Orange’s games. He finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Van Tiem has also played in all nine games and earned the start on the mound against Northern Guilford on Tuesday. Van Tiem had two RBIs against the Warriors. Bradsher was also a starter at wide receiver for the Orange football team last fall. The Panthers are 1-1 in the Central Conference and will face Cedar Ridge on Tuesday night at Red Wolves Field. The Panthers will host Cedar Ridge at Panther Field next Friday to conclude a crucial two-game series.