CARY — Green Hope has relied on defense and pitching all year, and when the Falcons’ bats weren’t connecting as well as head coach Mike Miragliuolo would have liked Tuesday, the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference champions were able to stymie visiting Broughton in a 5-0 win to start the NCHSAA 4A playoffs.
Top-seeded Green Hope will host No. 2 Millbrook, a 7-4 winner over New Bern Tuesday, in the second round.
“We just wanted to rely on our pitching and defense and that’s what came through. (Junior Michael) Merryman pitched great on the mound, but he got a lot of help defensively. Our catcher (Thomas Yoder) didn’t let anything by. When we had a 2-0 game with a runner on second and two outs, (Trevor) Losito in left field made an amazing play. That was key in the game. We turned double plays. Our infield played great, no errors. ... We didn’t hit the ball especially well, I think, for us, but with a defense like it kind kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”
Green Hope (21-3, 12-2 SWAC) took a 2-0 lead in the first when a Caps infield error allowed Vincent Addona, who led off with a double, to score and Eric Gilbert to advance to second. Gilbert would score on a Troy Maslowski single later in the inning.
Austen Jones singled to bring home Sean McQuillan and Addona singled to score Jones in the bottom of the fourth. Jeffery Salchert’s sacrifice fly in the fifth scored Matt Duckworth for the final run.
For Broughton, a wild card selection for the state tournament, the season ended with four consecutive losses.
“We had not done very well last week and we talked about how we didn’t want to go out with that sort of sour taste in our mouths, and we did much better tonight. ... It’s better to leave on anight like tonight in the state playoffs,” Broughton coach Harry Jones said. “I thought we did OK. I don’t know exactly what we could have done different except to execute fundamentally. You’ve got to score runs, and to score runs you’ve got to put the bat on the baseball and we never did really do that.”
The Caps finished with a line of four hits and two walks.
Though Broughton (12-13, 6-8 Cap Eight) will lose nine senior players, the Caps will return Walden and reliever Noah Yarborough.
“They both pitched better as the year went on, so that’s good,” Jones said. “The shortstop (Dom Ford) and catcher (John Woods) are both three-year starters coming back for their senior year next year, so that’s a good core to build around.”