RALEIGH — When the speaker system at Optimist Park refused to cooperate and play the recorded version of “The Star Spangled Banner” prior to the start of Apex and Sanderson’s first-round NCHSAA playoff game Friday night, a Sanderson parent stepped in and ably sang the anthem.
If only someone could have stepped in and helped Apex solve another more vexing problem: Sanderson pitcher Daniel Dulaney. The Spartan hurler no-hit the Cougars, who fell 9-0 to the Cap-8 champions to end their season.
“We gave them a few extra chances early on, which kind of set the tone,” Apex coach Mike Valder said. “We can’t fight uphill against a guy who’s going to throw the way Daniel did tonight. He did a spectacular job keeping us off balance, and we didn’t put a lot of pressure on their defense. I’m proud of my guys.”
The Cougars kept it close, allowing just four runs on four hits through the first four innings.
Though down 3-0 and hitless, Valder said he thought Esteban Valencia’s walk to open the fourth inning could have been their chance to get something going at the plate. With the hit-and-run on, Alex Yarem smacked a grounder up the middle. But Sanderson’s Owen Langston, already on his way to covering second, picked up the ball in stride and turned an all-too-easy 6-3 double play.
“That shut the door, killed any momentum we could’ve generated,” Valder said. “We needed to generate some momentum at that point.”
The Cougars stranded two runners on base in the fifth.
Their last chance at a rally came in the top of the sixth. Down 4-0, with Sanderson’s offense not threatening, Yarem reached base on a throwing error, then moved to second when Dulaney’s pick-off throw went down the right-field line.
With their first and only runner in scoring position, Yarem was stranded to end the inning.
The Spartans blew the game open with a five-run, sixth-inning onslaught.
Nevertheless, Valder took a broader view of the Cougars’ late-season performance.
“We won five out of the last eight games in the conference to get to this point,” Valder said. “That’s a tribute to all those guys working and fighting hard. We’re certainly not excited about the outcome here, but hopefully it’s something we can grow from and continue to move forward.”
Fuquay-Varina 11, East Chapel Hill 0: The Bengals (21-3) won easily Friday, setting up a second-round game against Leesville Road. Other second-round area games include Holly Springs against Millbrook, Green Hope at Riverside, Middle Creek at Sanderson, and in 3A Cardinal Gibbons hosts Eastern Guilford.