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WENDELL — On a night in which hits were hard to come by, Corinth Holders got a premium performance from senior Tyler Stufano on Tuesday to take game 1 of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A baseball East Regional finals series against Holly Springs.
Stufano’s 75-pitch shutout of the No. 4 seed Golden Hawks (20-6), the champions of the 4-A South Wake Conference, led the 4-A Northern Athletic Conference-champion Pirates (22-5) to a 2-0 win. Stufano allowed three hits and a walk while striking out two.
“I was a little nervous at first, not going to lie,” Stufano said. “Through, like the third inning, I had butterflies all the way through, but I just threw and hoped for the best and that’s all you can really do.”
The No. 3 Pirates had five hits and left five runners stranded in scoring position, but junior Zane Blinson’s two-out single in the bottom of the third inning brought the two runs home. Corinth Holders head coach Adam Weaver said that he wants his team’s approach at the plate to be better next game as the Pirates struck out 11 times.
“We had a kid (Blinson) come up there put a good swing on the ball to score two, and when Tyler Stufano throws like he did — that was enough for us,” Weaver said. “But there were two or three runs right there that if we get those across, then it gives us a little more breathing room. You never know which runs are going to be most important in games like this.”
Game 2 of the series is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Holly Springs while game 3, if necessary, will be back at Corinth Holders on Saturday night at 7.
In 2016, Weaver led the Pirates to the 3-A East Regional finals series before falling to Topsail in three games, but none of the players from this team have been past the second round of the playoffs. Weaver believes the inexperience of his players and his experience could be helpful this year.
“I’m thrilled to be in this situation because I could coach for the next 30 years and never play in another one. I’m cherishing the moment, but at the same time being there once before as a coach it helps us out tremendously,” Weaver said. “The way that we talk with the players and give them heads up of what the environment is going to be like and what to expect is a huge plus.”
Stufano said he believes his teammates are nervous, but the love they have for each other and the trust overrides the anxiety. Both Stufano and Weaver mentioned how happy they were to get game 1 of the three-game series because Holly Springs will throw its top pitcher, senior Matt Willadsen, in game 2. Willadsen, a North Carolina State University commit, has allowed just 15 hits and five runs in 53 ⅓ innings pitched. To counter, the Pirates will throw junior ace Landon Ginn, an East Carolina University commit.
“We can relax and go to their place on Thursday and play baseball,” Stufano said. “I have all the faith in Landon to throw on Thursday because that guy can throw — he’s got this.”
Score by innings:
WP-Tyler Stufano 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. LP-Patrick Trease 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 11 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Corinth Holders: Zane Blinson 1-2, 2 RBI; Matt Kelley 2-3. Holly Springs: Sam Kulasingam 2-3, 2B.