PUMPKIN CENTER – Pitching is the great equalizer in the high school baseball playoffs, and no team has been as dominant on the mound as the North Lincoln Knights. With a 7-0 victory over North Davidson in the fourth round May 17, North Lincoln’s pitching staff has tossed 21 consecutive scoreless innings since the fifth inning of its first-round win over Central Academy, setting up a return trip to the West Regional Final.
Seth Whitley toed the rubber for the Knights against North Davidson, firing his second consecutive complete-game shutout after blanking Wilkes Central over five innings in the second round May 10. After a bit of a shaky start that saw Whitley allow an infield single and a walk to the game’s first two batters, the right-handed sophomore settled into the commanding form he’s displayed all season en route to a sub-1.00 earned-run average.
Whitley retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced after allowing the first two Black Knights to reach base. In all, he pitched seven shutout innings – bringing his total to 12 scoreless in the playoffs – allowing just six hits while striking out four.
With Whitley controlling the game from the mound, the Knights’ bats got going early and North Lincoln never looked back.
North Davidson’s starting pitcher was pulled from the game without recording an out after walking two of his first three batters and hitting the third, leaving the bases loaded for North Lincoln’s cleanup hitter Jake Soorus.
Soorus promptly roped a line drive right at the Black Knights’ center fielder, but leadoff man Landon Reeves was able to tag and score from third for the game’s first run. Later in the inning, with two outs, senior Tanner Brumfield stepped to the plate and delivered an RBI single before first baseman Daniel Carter ripped two-RBI double into the gap in left-center to give the Knights a 4-0 lead after one.
The Knights tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on a throwing error by the North Davidson first baseman, and another error by the Black Knights in the sixth helped North Lincoln push its lead to 7-0.
With the victory, North Lincoln will return to the West Regional Final for the second consecutive year. The best-of-three series will be an all-Lincoln County affair, with the West Lincoln Rebels defeating Oak Grove 4-3 to guarantee one Lincoln County team in the state championship series.