Orange High School

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.

Hammond’s singles scores Carden, lifts Orange softball over Southern Alamance 5-4 to end Patriots’ 34-game conference winning streak

In a conference as deep as the Central Conference, any road softball win feels like a true accomplishment.

On Tuesday night, the Orange softball team did it the old fashioned way at Southern Alamance. They earned it.

Sophomore Hayleigh Hammond looped a RBI single to centerfield to score Katie Carden, pushing Orange ahead for good in a 5-4 win over the Patriots in Graham.

The win ended Southern Alamance’s 34-game conference winning streak. It was their first league loss since March 17, 2021, which was actually their season opener against Southwestern Randolph in the Mid-Piedmont Conference. That was the pandemic-shortened year where the Patriots wound up winning the 3A State Championship. The past two years, Southern Alamance played as a 4A team in the DAC-VII Conference, where they won 24 straight games and consecutive league crowns.

Senior pitcher Caden Robinson handled the lead for the final two innings as Orange won its seventh straight game. The Patriots got leadoff batter Brianna White aboard after a walk, but Robinson struck out Savannah Strickland. After Abagail Holt moved White to second with a sacrifice bunt, Macyee Tickle drew a walk. Hammond ended the inning when she caught a fly ball hit by senior Kayla Wilson.

The Lady Panthers (6-1) haven’t lost since dropping its opener against Wakefield on February 26. They are now tied with Eastern Alamance for first place in the Central Conference at 2-0. Orange hosts Eastern Alamance on Tuesday in Hillsborough.

Robinson struck out nine to earn her sixth win of the season, allowing only four hits.

Orange never trailed against the Patriots, but the Patriots tied the game twice. Robinson lined a double to the right field gap. Allie Carden followed with a bloop that fell between three Patriots in right for a base hit to score Robinson.

After Robinson retired the Patriots in order in the first inning, Hammond led off the second when she belted a hanging curveball to the left field fence for a double. Hammond advanced to third following a groundout by Mia Leathers to first base. Natalie Roberson laid down a bunt that rolled past first baseman Peyton Carter. Wilson, playing second, backed her up and tagged out Roberson, but Hammond easily scored to increase Orange’s lead to 2-0.

Southern Alamance struck for two runs in the second to tie the game. After Carter was hit by a pitch, Gracie Shoffner belted a line drive that sailed over the head of Hammond in centerfield. Freshman Avery Dobbins sent a high bouncer to shortstop, which Delanie Shaffer knocked down but couldn’t make a play with. Carter scored to cut the Orange lead in half. Then Shoffner scored off a groundout by White to tie the game.

Orange immediately grabbed the lead back in the third inning. Robinson lined a single through the hole into left field. Allie Carden took a 2-2 fastball and parked it just shy of the scoreboard in centerfield. her second home run of the season.

The Patriots evened things up with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Holt reached on an error at first base. Wilson stepped up and lined a base hit to right field that nearly hit Holt running to second. Rylee Humble then sent a bouncing ball that eluded a diving attempt by Shaffer at shortstop and rolled all the way to the royal blue fence to score Holt and Wilson. With Morgan Edmunds running for Humble at second and one out, Robinson struck out Carter. Shoffner grounded out to Katie Carden to keep the game tied 4-4 at the end of three innings.

Katie Carden opened the fifth inning by getting hit by a pitch. Allie Carden went opposite field with a diving liner that hugged the right field line, sending Katie Carden to third, leading to Hammond’s game-winning hit.

Orange will host Cedar Ridge on Thursday night.

Orange Panther of the Week: Freddy Sneed

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is junior basketball forward Freddy Sneed. With no limits to his versatility, Sneed could help the Orange men’s basketball team in any number of ways. As Coleman Cloer and Kai Wade handled most of the scoring load for the bulk of a championship season, Sneed became a valuable presence defensively. Early in the year, Cloer was sidelined with an ankle injury. Sneed stepped up on offense. He scored 16 points in Orange’s season-opening win over Hillside. Sneed also stole an inbounds pass that led to the game-winning 3-pointer from Malakai Poole. Sneed finished the game with 16 points, five steals and four rebounds. Sneed proved to be a valuable presence throughout the season as Orange won its first regular season championship since 2017 and its first postseason conference tournament title since 2016. Against Eastern Alamance on February 16, Sneed totaled ten points, seven rebounds and six steals. In the Central Conference Tournament championship game, Sneed finished with eight points and six rebounds. Sneed has been a member of the varsity since his freshman year under the direction of head coach Derryl Britt and will continue to be a vital part of Orange basketball into his senior year in 2024-2025 as the Panthers look to repeat as conference champions.

Orange soccer’s Elliana Sullivan Gaddy, Makayla Davis & Kaylen Crayton discuss win over Cedar Ridge

It wasn’t just another edition of the Hillsborough Derby between the Orange and Cedar Ridge women’s soccer teams at Red Wolves Stadium. It was possibly the highest scoring game ever between the two teams. Orange scored three goals in the opening six minutes, then got the Elliana Sullivan Gaddy scored the game-winning goal for the Lady Panthers with 38:54 remaining in regulation as Orange won 7-5 over the Red Wolves. Sullivan Gaddy finished with four goals, bringing her total to nine on the season. Senior Ella Wimsatt finished with two goals and two assists. Cedar Ridge junior Fleury Nicholson finished with four goals, including a penalty kick in the second half that brought the Red Wolves within one goal. Wimsatt cashed in the final goal for Orange with 46 seconds remaining on a goal from Cora Bailey. Senior Makayla Davis earned the win as the goalkeeper for Orange. There was solid defensive play by freshman Kaylen Crayton, who plays on the backline with her sister, senior Lily Crayton. Orange’s Caroline Cathey scored a goal to put the Lady Panthers ahead 2-1 early. Orange is now 4-2, 2-1 in the Central Conference. They will face Southern Alamance in Graham next Monday. Cedar Ridge will host Northern Durham on Wednesday night at Red Wolves Stadium. 

Orange lacrosse’s Connor Kruse, Brandon Williams and Josh Crabtree discuss wild win over Pinecrest

Midway through the season and the Orange lacrosse team is off to its best start in team history. The Panthers are 10-0 after beating Southern Alamance last week in Graham. This week, the Panthers will face a stiff test in Holly Springs, a 4A team that beat the Panthers 16-4 last year. Orange has already beaten three 4A teams this year. Last month, Orange journeyed to Pinehurst and came away with a wild win over Pinecrest 10-9 in overtime. Sophomore Brandon Williams scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Connor Kruse. Orange trailed 9-5 with 11:48 remaining in regulation, but Williams led a comeback. He scored four goals, Josh Crabtree tied the game with 1:04 remaining in regulation when he scored off a rebound from a shot fired by Kruse. Orange overcame three penalties in the final minute of regulation and got strong defensive play from defenseman Sascha Van Praag and goalkeeper Jackson Runkle, who played in the fourth quarter and alternated with starter Katie Wolter. Kruse assisted on four goals. On Friday night, Orange will return to conference play to face crosstown rival Cedar Ridge. Orange is going for its fourth consecutive Mid-Carolina Conference championship and is currently ranked the #1 team in the East Region in the 3A/2A/1A classification.

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.

Orange lacrosse Connor Kruse discusses 200th career assist in win vs. Northwood.

Orange senior Connor Kruse had already etched his name into the Orange High lacrosse record books a long time ago. Now, he has put his name into the national record books. On Monday night, Kruse tied a national record by registering 16 assists in Orange’s 18-5 win over Southern Alamance at Redmond Stadium in Graham. Kruse tied the record set by Ryan Stadiumelmaier of Midland-Dow High School in Michigan set in 2022. Along the way, Kruse became the first player in Orange history to surpass 400 points. Last week, Kruse became the first player to eclipse 200 career assists in Orange’s 14-1 win over Northwood at Auman Stadium. Kruse finished with one goal and three assists against the Chargers. After its win over the Patriots, the Panthers improved to 10-0, 7-0 in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Last winter, Kruse signed to play with Lenoir-Rhyne, which won the Division II National Championship last year in Philadelphia. Against Northwood, senior Bryce Nelson earned a gaol. Earning the win as goalkeeper was freshman Jackson Runkle, who played all 48 minutes. Runkle recently finished his first season with Orange wrestling. Orange lacrosse is off for the rest of this week to enjoy spring break. In the meantime, they will prepare for a difficult 4A opponent, Holly Springs, on April 4. 

Kruse ties national record with 16 assists, surpasses 400 career points, Orange lax beats Southern Alamance 18-5

Connor Kruse has been setting records and milestones even before he started playing lacrosse at Orange.

In his last middle school game, he scored a goal right off the faceoff in a blowout win at Roxboro Community School. That was the final game before the pandemic set in, leading to middle school athletics being shut down for nearly 18 months.

No one knew it at the time, but it was also the final game in the long, storied athletic history of Stanford Chargers athletics before the name of the school was changed. It would be rebranded Orange Middle School in February 2021.

Kruse is now a senior and he owns almost every offensive record in the Orange lacrosse record book. On Monday night, he entered his name in a national record book.

Kruse tied the American record for most assists in a game with 16 in Orange’s 18-5 win over Southern Alamance at Redmond Stadium in Graham. The only other high school player in American high school history to have 16 assists in a game is Ryan Stadelmaier of Midland-Dow High in Michigan. In 2021, Stadlemaier had 16 assists against Linden High on May 20, 2022.

Stadelmaier is now playing lacrosse at Air Force, a member of the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference.

Kruse, the son of former North Carolina and Johns Hopkins lacrosse player Travis Kruse, became the first Orange lacrosse player to surpass 400 points in his career.

Last week, Kruse became the first Orange player to reach 200 career assists in a 14-1 win over Northwood at Auman Stadium in Hillsborough. Kruse’s feed to Gray Crabtree with 2:07 remaining in the second quarter put the Panthers ahead 7-0 and earned him another milestone in Orange history. Kruse finished the night with one goal and three assists.

“I’ve played with a lot of guys here who have done some great things,” Kruse said after last Thursday’s win over the Chargers. “There’s a lot of guys who have contributed to that. Ryan Merrill (who graduated in 2022) all the way to today with Brett (Clark) and Brandon Williams, there’s just a lot of guys who have helped me get to that point. I’d just like to thank them for helping me.”

Kruse also owns the Orange record for 170 goals coming into this season.

Kruse is after more than just records in his final games at Orange. The Panthers are 10-0, 7-0 in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Kruse was a member of the first Orange lacrosse team to win a conference championship in 2021. Since then, Orange has added two more league titles to its collection and has hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship game each of the last two years.

Now, Kruse is hunting for a regional championship. It appeared that last year would be Orange’s time when they faced Northwood at Auman Stadium, a team the Panthers had defeated five straight times. But the Chargers came away with a 10-8 victory in Hillsborough.

Under head coach Chandler Zirkle, the Panthers are off to its best start in team history. They have wins over 4A teams Apex, Pinecrest and Jordan.

“Those 4A games at the beginning of the year helped us,” Kruse said. “We’re just focused on trying to get better every day.”

The win over Southern Alamance on Monday night ended a stretch of four games over six days for the Panthers. On Friday night, Orange defeated Western Alamance 17-5 at Primm Stadium in Elon. Kruse finished with six goals and three assists. Clark came away with four goals and one assist.

Last December, Kruse officially signed to play with Lenoir-Rhyne, which won the Division II national championship last year. The Bears defeated Mercyhurst 20-5 in Philadelphia to win the first national championship in team history.