The Queens Grant High School Stallions baseball team may be going deep into the state championship tournament in the West. By winning the second and third rounds in the playoffs, and earning a bye in the first round, they are just one victory away from a best of three games Regional Championship Round to be played in Winston-Salem for the West Champion with the winner going to the state championship.
No other Stallion team has gone this deep into the tournament and another big game this Friday will be played at home against Uwharrie Charter who took down the second seed North Stanly 7-3. It’s now down to the final four and all Stallion baseball fans need to show support for their team.
In the second round game, it took the Stallions eleven innings to beat Lincoln Charter 4-3 on the road. This was supposed to be a home game for Coach Dan Kerr’s club, however, due to inclement weather in the Matthews-Mint Hill area, they had to travel to Denver, North Carolina to play a night game under the lights at Lincoln’s home field. This put the Stallions at a competitive disadvantage, with the game not being played on their home turf. However, the boys overcame adversity and came out with the win to propel the Stallions into the next round with a home game of their own.
Round 2 – Lincoln Charter 3 – Queens Grant 4
In the game, the Stallions used their two top starters Bryce Gorospe and Leo Hoffer. “We made a decision, we win this ballgame or their is no tomorrow. We also have confidence in our third starter Michael Ritch along with our relief pitchers to carry us through the next round,” said coach Kerr.
Gorospe pitched five innings allowing 5 hits, one double, 3 walks, 2 earned runs and fanned 5 batters in a 90 pitch performance. While winning pitcher Hoffer allowed only 1 hit, 4 base on balls, 1 unearned run, and had 6 strikeouts on 83 pitches in six innings of work.
Andy Duran went 2-4, scored 1 run and had 1 RBI, Jacob Beard 2-4 with 1 run scored, Spencer Smith 2-5, 1 run and 1 RBI, Nick Kuebler had a double and an RBI to lead the team offensively.
Round 3 – Mount Airy 1 – Queens Grant 10
Now in the friendly confines of Stallions Stadium with the “Brown Monster” looming in left field the club was ready to get this game on the way.
The first inning did not go well for the home team. Starter Michael Ritch was a little shaky after facing the first batter who hit a tapper down the first base line, Ritch made a nice play to apparently get the runner out at first by a long stride, but the umpire called the runner safe which ensued in a dispute with Coach Kerr and the officials.
Now with the runner on first, Ritch would allow his first walk, he would get the next batter out, but hit the following batter on the jersey to load the bases. On a 3-2 pitch he did not get the call on a close toss just off the plate to walk in the run. Ritch apparently found his groove because he would strike out the next two batters to limit the damage.
The Stallions floundered two scoring opportunities in their first two innings. What looked like a sure two run line drive single with two outs off the bat of Nick Kuebler, was turned into an inning ending out when the Granite Bears center fielder made a nice diving catch on the rocket hit by Kuebler in the first. In the second, with the bases loaded the Stallions still were not able to break through and stranded 5 runners through two innings of play.
In the third inning, the Stallions pounded the Bears for 6 runs on 3 hits, 3 throwing errors and a two walks. The big blows came when Kuebler drilled a liner down the right field line off the 305 sign fair for a double driving in 2 runners, and Cody Marsh would smack a double in the gap to drive in another. Meanwhile, the running Stallions put pressure on their opponent on the base paths to create the errant throws for three unearned runs.
In the fourth, the Stallions put this game out of reach padding their lead with 4 more runs with the four big blows coming from Andy Duran with a 358 foot one hopper to deep center field off the 361 foot sign for a double, Andrew Ollenberger with a base hit, Bryce Gorospe would follow with a two run single, and Spencer Smith with a 2 RBI double to right center to finish off the Bears.
Meanwhile, Ritch would pitch shut-out baseball through the sixth inning. In the seventh, Cameron King would enter the game in relief, he would give up a couple of hits, gets a ground out, walks the next batter on a 3-2 pitch just outside, registers a big strikeout for the second out, and has the clean-up hitter smack a fly ball to center field to reliable Andy Duran to end the game.
The post game interview was straight forward with the coach. “We are playing good sound fundamental baseball with confidence right now. This should carryover into our next ballgame, we need to keep our focus and continue with the same mindset going forward as the competition and intensity gets tougher with each round,” said coach Kerr.