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Finish with a flourish

Hunt’s Huff edges NJ’s Pitts to lead Warriors to victory

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WILSON — Hunt High sophomore Gavin Huff outlasted North Johnston junior Dylan Pitts in a pitching duel as Huff’s Warriors took a 1-0 home win in the Golden Leaf Invitational on Tuesday over North Johnston. Huff picked up his third win of the year after going the distance with a two-hit shutout while striking out nine batters and walking none. Pitts nearly matched Huff with six innings pitched, two hits, one unearned run and no walks allowed while striking out nine hitters. “It was two good pitchers going at it,” Hunt head coach Jon Smith said. “Their guy threw the ball extremely well and our guy threw the ball extremely well. It was good to see that we got a two-out hit to drive in a run. I’ve been talking about doing the little things against a good pitcher and I guess today we did enough.” Both teams finished 2-1 in the Golden Leaf. The Warriors (15-5) of the 3-A Big East Conference got a two-out double in the first inning from Jarrett Aycock to score Tyson Bass from third base. Bass reached via two errors by Pitts — first on a ground ball and then an error on a pickoff throw. “We fought, but I told my guys we have to play for seven innings and the first inning cost us,” said North Johnston head coach Brian Ford, whose team lost for just the second time in 20 games. “I tried to tell them we have to make up for it, and we just didn’t. The Huff kid pitched well for them and we couldn’t capitalize.” Pitts and Garrison Radford each got a hit for North Johnston. The Panthers of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference hoped a win would boost their resume for the upcoming North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs. Hunt is ranked 21st in the 3-A rankings, but the win over 2-A No. 6 North Johnston is a boost for the Warriors. Hunt now has a tiebreaker game for second in the conference with No. 11 Rocky Mount (16-6) on May 1 since the conference tournament has been canceled — a win could help Hunt host a first-round matchup in the 3-A playoffs.

“We got to keep pitching like we did this week,” Smith said. “We got to have more competitive at bats against good pitching, because that’s what you see in the playoffs. No matter how good the pitching is, if you don’t score the best you can do is tie.” The Panthers have two games against conference foe North Pitt (16-5) and likely need to win both to share the conference title as Nash Central (15-7), the team they’re tied with at 7-1, has two game left against SouthWest Edgecombe (6-9). Ford expects his team to scrap. “We feel every time we step on the field, we’re going to beat people,” Ford said. “Our team is going to fight. We’re not going to give up.” Score by innings: North Johnston 000 000 0 — 0 Hunt 100 000 X — 1 WP-Gavin Huff (3-2) 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO. LP-Dylan Pitts (7-1) 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SP. LEADING HITTERS — North Johnston: Dylan Pitts 1-2; Garrison Radford 1-2. Hunt: Jarrett Aycock 1-2, 2B, RBI; Chase Waddell 1-3, 2B.