Give credit to Cardinal Gibbons for showing big sportsmanship last week.
The Cardinal Gibbons baseball team had the No. 1 seed from Carolina-6 Conference all sewed up. The Crusaders (17-7) had split their home and away series with Orange (23-2), each finishing 9-1 in league games, and Gibbons then won a coin flip for the top seed after the two teams figured they couldnt hold a playoff game.
An almost solid week of rain had rendered virtually every area high school field unplayable.
"Our infield was okay, but we had standing water in the outfield," said Orange coach Dean Dease, whose Panthers were supposed to host any Carolina-6 playoff game.
But then someone suggested Dease call Duke University, where Jack Coombs field is covered with artificial, wonderfully waterproof turf.
"I called their coaching staff and they set me up right away with the grounds crew, and we were set," Dease said. "They were very gracious."
So was Cardinal Gibbons.
The Crusaders didnt have to accept the last-minute switch. But they did.
"If your team goes four, five days without a game, you want to play," Cardinal Gibbons coach Jim Liebler said. "We didnt want a coin toss. Win, lose or draw, we wanted to play."
Cardinal Gibbons actually had a game with Raleigh Home Schools team scheduled for the break between the regular season and the start of the playoffs that began Friday. But the offer to play a tiebreaker with Orange took precedence.
Both teams started their No. 2 pitchers, holding their No. 1 guys for Fridays NCHSAA tournament openers.
Cardinal Gibbons starter Tyler Pickard, a signee for Charleston Southern, helped himself early by hitting a shot into centerfield and then scoring on catcher Stephen Scotts long shot into right. But Scott was caught at third trying to stretch the RBI double into a triple.
Orange went to work right away on Pickard in the bottom of the inning, with the first four Panthers reaching base. Nick Debo drove in a run with a shot to right center, and Orange made it a 2-1 lead with a double-steal, Jon Evans streaking home as the Crusaders tried and failed to get Debo at second.
Cleanup batter Andrew Toney drew a full count and then crushed a fastball over the left field fence for a 4-1 Orange lead.
In the second inning, Garrett Cloer added a 2-RBI line drive past shortstop to drive in Joe Piscitelli and Toney for a 6-1 lead.
Cardinal Gibbons managed to collect seven hits total, but couldnt string enough together, as Orange went on to win 7-3.
Orange starter Braden Weber (5-0) scattered five hits over five full innings to get the win.
"Braden Weber did an outstanding job," Dease said. "We were going to staff this game from the start. We hoped hed go three innings, and he went five. He pitched great."
"This was a great day of baseball on a great field," Toney said. "Theyve been our rivals all year, and this was a big win to give us some momentum heading into the playoffs.
"This was a lot better than flipping a coin."