Curtis, Panthers shut down South
Hibriten starting pitcher John Curtis struck out 16 South Caldwell batters to lead the Panthers in a 4-0 shutout over the Spartans on Thursday in Lenoir.
"My curve ball was really on today," said Curtis. "I had a good team behind me so I wasn't afraid to throw it. I threw the pitches Dylan (Hamel) called and he called a pretty good game."
This was the first matchup of the year for these two county rivals, and it did not take long to heat up. In the bottom of the first inning, AJ Watson hit an RBI single, scoring Colton Henthorne to give Hibriten a 1-0 lead. Watson advanced to third after two stolen bases. This brought up Carson Poarch with one out. Poarch hit a fly ball to right field and Isaac Tilghman made the catch for the out. Watson tagged up and headed for home as the throw came in. South catcher Nick Shields took the throw and Watson ran him over in an attempt to score. But Shields hung on to the ball for the double play. After a lengthy discussion by the umpires, it was ruled that Watson made a "malicious attempt to injure" and was ejected.
Meanwhile, Curtis continued to mow down batters one after another. In the second and third innings combined, Curtis struck out four straight. He later struck out six in a row extending from the fourth and into the sixth inning. In the top of the fourth, the Spartans had the bases loaded with one out, before Curtis struck out two batters to end the inning.
"He (Curtis) pitched a phenomenal game," said South head coach Jeff Parham. "He had everything going for him. He was lights out."
Hibriten added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Lucas Penley reached on an error and Elijah Watson walked to get on base. Drew Bolick then hit a shallow fly ball to right field. Two South players collided, causing the ball to drop, bringing Watson and Penley around to score. Bolick scored to batters later on an RBI single to left by Poarch.
Curtis then struck out the final three batters of the day to give the Panthers the victory.
"This was a big one," said Hibriten head coach Terry Henthorne. "These guys wanted an opportunity to beat them (South Caldwell). I can't say enough of how proud I am."
Hibriten returns to action with a trip to St. Stephens on Tuesday.
South Caldwell will host St. Stephens today at 6:30 p.m.
"We have to come out ready to play," said Parham. "We have to forget this and be ready for another conference game. It's character-check time."
South Caldwell 000-000-0 - 0-4-2
Hibriten 100-030-x - 4-4-0
Winning pitcher: John Curtis (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 16 K). Losing pitcher: Gage Parham (6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 6 K).
Leading hitters: South Caldwell - Nick Horning 1-3, 2B; Taylor Purus 1-3. Hibriten - Carson Poarch 1-2, BB, RBI; AJ Watson 1-1, RBI, 2 SB; Elijah Watson 1-2, BB, R, 2 SB; Lucas Penley 1-3, R.