Honeycutt’s triple, 3 RBIs lift Orange baseball past Grimsely 15-7, 4-0 start
GREENSBORO–In its final games before the Central Carolina Conference opener, the Orange baseball team is using the week to explore in several ways.
On Wednesday night, they journeyed to First National Bank Park, the home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers. For now, it’s the home of the Grimsley Whirlies, who were basically vacated from their longtime home field due to the opening of a new middle school.
Both teams had to feel likeLilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels playing with tall buildings surrounding them as the Greensboro skyline faded to darkness after first pitch. With the ACC Tournament a stone’s throw away at the Greensboro Coliseum, Orange jumped out to an early lead and tried out some new pitching arms along the way in a decisive win.
Catcher Ryan Honeycutt went 2-for-3 with three RBIs as the Panthers scored five runs in the opening inning to prevail 15-7. For the second time in five years, the Panthers are off to a 4-0 start.
Orange’s early runs prevented the Whirlies from seriously challenging for the lead despite some uncommon sloppiness from the Panther defense in the middle innings. Orange had a season-high three errors which accounted for three unearned runs.
Senior Ryan Hench earned his second win in two starts. He struck out six over three innings. Hench, gearing up to play in ballparks as big as the one he was in on Wednesday night, stroked a double in the first inning down the left field line to score David Waitt. Jackson Berini drew a leadoff walk and scored when Waitt lined a 1-2 fastball to left field, allowing Berini to score from second.
Cameron Guentensberger reached on an error, moving Hench to third. Honeycutt leveled the hardest hit ball of the night to the left field power alley for the Panthers’ first triple of the season, easily scoring Guentensberger and Hench. Cross Clayton knocked in Honeycutt on a fly ball to left field, the first of five sacrifice flies for Orange on the night.
Hench only allowed two hits over three innings. Grimsley’s Sebastian Rodriguez got a one-out double in the second, but was stranded at third when Hench struck out Levi Ponder to end the inning. Guentensberger replaced Hench after three innings.
Orange’s sacrifice parade resumed in the fourth when Clayton opened with a walk. With Joey Pounds at bat, Clayton went to second base on a wild pitch. Pounds bunted Clayton over to third, and Berini knocked him in on a fly ball to right field.
The Whirlies scored three runs in the fourth. Tai Richmond and Eli Coll each singled, while Rodriguez walked to load the bases. Chase Gurner grounded out to Clayton, which scored Richmond. Ponder reached on a throwing error with two out that scored Coll and Rodriguez to cut Orange’s six-run lead in half.
In the fifth, Clayton got his own sacrifice fly RBI when he scored Guentensberger, who reached on a one-out walk. Orange led 7-3.
The Whirlies scored another run when Clay Rosser reached on a one-out throwing error. Richmond knocked him in with a single to centerfield. Grimsley had runners at first and second with one out and Orange’s lead down to 7-4, but Honeycutt threw out J.T. Simmons at third base on a steal attempt to shut down the threat.
The Panthers added four more runs in the sixth. With Richmond on the mound, Neo Best hit a leadoff single. Berini also singled to right field and Best took third following a throwing error. Waitt walked to load the bases, and Connor Nordan scored Best off another sacrifice fly to right field. Nordan has an RBI in each of Orange’s four games.
Waitt came in off a wild pitch. Elijah Santos, who replaced Hench, walked and eventually scored off a sacrifice fly by Honeycutt.
In the seventh inning, Nordan laced a bases-loaded double down the third base line to score Berini, Waitt and Santos. Pounds started the frame with a leadoff walk and came in off a Berini single. Of Orange’s nine starters, eight scored runs. Berini has a team-high ten runs in four games.
Orange’s Joey Pounds and Coltin Hedrick discuss baseball win over Jordan
The Orange baseball team’s pitching depth was on full display in a tight 2-1 win over Jordan on Monday night. With senior Joey Pounds on the hill, the Panthers held the Falcons to a season-low with one run. For comparison’s sake, Jordan was held to one run to less just once last season. Pounds earned the win throwing the opening two innings. The revelation of the night was junior Coltin Hedrick, who threw four relief innings and allowed just one run. Hedrick struck out four. He also had help from his defense. Shortstop Jackson Berini turned a double play that ended the third inning. Hedrick ended a Jordan threat in the fifth when he struck out Andrew Davis with runners at second and third. Hedrick set the Falcons down in order in the sixth inning. Orange junior Josiah Gibbs earned his first career save in the seventh. The Panthers got all of its runs in the first inning off RBI singles by Connor Nordan and Ryan Honeycutt. Jackson Berini and Ryan Hench scored both of Orange’s runs. All three of Orange’s wins have come against 4A teams from the DAC-VII Conference. Orange will go to Greensboro on Wednesday to face Grimsely at First National Bank Field.
Pounds, Hedrick, Gibbs combine to push Orange past Jordan 2-1
The term “staff game” is a relative term for Orange baseball this year.
Most seasons, a “staff game” features two or more inexperienced pitchers trying to piece together a win against a non-conference opponent. The regular starters wait their turn in the rotation for the next conference game. It usually winds up with a lot of runs on the board, upwards of seven pitchers during a game that lasts over two-and-a-half hours.
That’s sort of how Monday night’s game against Jordan started. Orange’s top two starters, Cross Clayton and Ryan Hench, were position players but didn’t pitch. Yet it ended in a surprising pitcher’s dual that included a staff that may be even deeper than Panthers coach Jason Knapp anticipated and a few free bases that made all the difference in the world.
Orange’s Mark Pounds, Colin Hedrick and Josiah Gibbs combined on a four-hitter as Orange held off the Falcons 2-1 at Panther Field. Pounds, a senior who committed to Barton College in Wilson earlier this winter, earned his first win of the season. The revelation of the night was Hedrick, who threw four innings and allowed just one run in only his second varsity appearance.
“We know we have a lot of good arms on this team,” Knapp said. “We’re confident in who we have out there and I wanted to see how much our younger players could handle themselves in a tough situation. I’m happy to get the win because Jordan’s a really good team. I’m also happy how we grew tonight.”
Orange (3-0) scored all of its runs in the first inning. Senior shortstop Jackson Berini opened with an infield hit. With Ryan Hench at bat, Berini advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved to third after an errant throw to second wound up in centerfield. After Hench walked, Connor Nordan grounded a single though the 5-6 hole to drive in Berini. With the bases loaded after Cameron Guentensberger walked, junior designated hitter Ryan Honeycutt sent a fly ball that dropped in right field to plate Hench.
The bases were still loaded with one out, but Jordan centerfielder Andrew Davis caught a fly ball from Ryan Horton that kept Nordan from scoring. Davis ended the inning with a flyout by Cross Clayton.
For the rest of the night, Jordan’s combination of Alex Mooring (who started) and Elijah Crowley ruled the roost, retiring the final ten Panthers that came to the plate. Orange only mustered one hit and two baserunners in the final six innings. Crowley, who replaced Mooring to start the fourth, threw three perfect innings.
Through the opening three games, Orange’s defense has singled itself out as the strength of the team. It thwarted one attempt after another by Jordan to push across the tying runs.
On two occasions, Berini made key plays at shortstop. In the first, the Falcons loaded the bases with two outs against Pounds. Left fielder Carter Liverman grounded a ball towards the hole, but Berini raced under it and threw out Miller Young at third base to shut down the threat.
Jordan’s Logan Lowe and Ian Bailey reached with one out in the third, but Berini positioned himself perfectly on top of second base and waited for the ball to turn an easy 6-3 double play.
Davis led off the fourth inning with a double down the third base line, but was stranded at third after Hedrick induced three straight pop-ups, the final one caught by Berini.
Jordan finally pushed across a run in the fifth when catcher Nick Reed reached on an error. Miles Newsome laid down a bunt down the third base line for another single. Ian Bailey lined a fastball to left field to score courtesy runner Kai Hale, who beat out a throw by Hench. It appeared the Falcons were set to add more when Bailey advanced to second on the throw and Newsome at third base with one out, but Young popped out to Best and Hedrick struck out Davis.
Knapp left Hedrick in to throw the sixth, his fourth inning of relief. Hedrick set down the Falcons in order, including two strikeouts. It was the first time that the Falcons went down in order all night.
Junior Josiah Gibbs earned his first career save with another 1-2-3 inning, ending when right fielder David Waitt caught a fly ball from Logan Lowe for the final out.
Orange’s Cross Clayton & Connor Nordan discuss season opening baseball win
There are high expectations for the Orange softball team this season. The Panthers return the top three pitchers in its rotation from last year, including senior Ryan Hench and junior Cross Clayton. On Monday night, the Panthers started the season strong with a 13-1 win over East Chapel Hill in five innings at Panther Field. 1st baseman Connor Nordan went 3-for-3 with five RBIs, including a two-run single to drive in the first two runs of the season in the first inning. Later, Nordan had a double to right field that brought in Jackson Berini and Hench. Clayton earned the ninth win of his career, scattering only two hits in four innings. He struck out seven as the Panthers won its season-opener for the third straight year. Last season, Nordan was one of the most reliable hitters for the Panthers. He hit .400 with a team-high 32 hits. He also had 25 RBIs, one behind Ryan Hench’s total of 26 for the team lead. Clayton emerged as the Panthers strong second starter last season as a sophomore. Last year, Clayton went 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA. He led the team in wins. Orange will continue its season on Wednesday night when they face Northern Durham at Knights Field at 6PM. You can hear that game on Hillsboroughsports.com.
Nordan goes 3-for-3 with 5 RBIs, Clayton strikes out 7, Orange baseball wipes out East Chapel Hill 13-1
Baseball season openers aren’t easy.
The weather is usually cold so it doesn’t feel like baseball weather, even during a winter as tame as the current one. The crowd is usually silent because they’re more focused on staying warm. Some of the players are transitioning after basketball or wrestling season ended and have barely had time to practice.
On Monday night, it was cold, gray and overcast, not exactly the trappings of an intense atmosphere, but Connor Nordan was more than willing to fill the gap to start a season of high expectations for Orange baseball.
Nordan went 3-for-3 with five RBIs while junior pitcher Cross Clayton struck out seven over four innings as Orange cruised past East Chapel Hill 13-1 in five innings on Monday night at Orange High Field. Right fielder Cameron Guentensberger added a two-run double as the Panthers improved to 4-1 in season openers under head coach Jason Knapp.
After he surrendered his only run of the game, Clayton set down the final nine consecutive Wildcats he faced, striking out six. Clayton went 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA in his first varsity season in 2022.
Knapp elected to start Clayton ahead of Ryan Hench, a senior who started the previous two Opening Days for the Panthers. Part of it was Knapp wanted to save Hench for Wednesday’s game at Northern Durham.
“Connor has probably turned into our biggest vocal leader,” Knapp said of Nordan. “He’s really stepped up in that leadership capacity this year. We’re proud of him and he sets the tone of the whole club.”
Orange scored in all four of its at-bats. Jackson Berini, who recently committed to Gaston College, scored three runs. The Panthers opened with four runs in the first inning that started with an infield single by Berini. After Hench, who played third base, reached on a single to third, Nordan sent a bouncer that hugged the third base line to bring in Berini and Hench. Guentensberger got onboard off an error. With two out, Wyatt Hedrick loaded the bases after he got hit by a pitch. Ryan Horton, in his first start as a catcher, sent a grounder to centerfield to increase the Orange lead to 4-0.
East Chapel Hill’s Luke Ligon doubled off the left field wall to open the second inning. Ben Johnson, running for Ligon, scored the Wildcats’ only run off a groundout by Andrew Briley.
David Waitt got the run back for Orange in the second inning when he singled to centerfield. Wiatt scored off a line drive to right field by Nordan, who let out a yell after he advanced to second base on the throw.
Senior Joey Pounds, who recently committed to Barton College, opened the third inning by scoring off a wild pitch. Berini, who was hit by a pitch, later scored off a bases-loaded walk by Guentensberger.
In the fourth, Orange scored six runs. After Hedrick hit a leadoff single and Horton walked, Pounds dropped a gorgeous bunt down the third base line to lead the bases. Berini drove in a run off a bases-loaded walk. Hench was hit by a pitch to bring in Horton. Nordan ended a big night with a line drive that went over the right fielder’s head to bring in two more runs. Guentensberger knocked a first-pitch fastball to the right centerfield power ally, the deepest part of Orange’s ballpark, to score Hench and Nordan.
It’s the first of six non-conference games to open the season for Orange. The Panthers will travel to Northern Durham on Wednesday and are scheduled to host Northern Guilford on Friday.
Next week, the Panthers will host Jordan on March 6, followed by a trip to Greensboro to face Grimsley at First National Bank Field, the home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, on March 8. Orange will host Southern Alamance on March 10 before its conference opener against Western Alamance in Hillsborough.