Rocky Mount Academy’s regular season ended Saturday afternoon with three perfect throws and a championship.
Junior pitcher Justin Hicks’ gutsy 3-2 curve ball missed a swinging bat and fell into his older brother’s catcher’s mitt.
Allen Hicks popped to his feet and gunned down his counterpart, Faith Christian catcher Cody Manning, who had crept off first base.
Then, Justin Hicks flung his glove just over the fence in front of the Rocky Mount Academy dugout – arguably the most accurate of the three tosses – and let out a primal scream after finishing off the Eagles’ 7-6 victory against rival Faith Christian.
The Eagles both enacted revenge for their lone conference loss and clinched their second consecutive Eastern Plains Independent Conference Championship at Rocky Mount Academy.
“It’s unreal,” said Allen Hicks, who was waiting for the strikeout to throw down to first base. “And to win it like that, by one run, it’s just unreal.”
Rocky Mount Academy (17-2, 12-1 EPIC), which won the conference title last year en route to reaching the NCISAA 2-A state championship series, likely will earn a first round bye in the state playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
Faith Christian (14-6, 11-3) ended its season with two straight losses, losing its grip on the conference title.
The Patriots will have to wait and see if they earn one of the top four seeds in the playoffs and the resulting bye into the second round.
“If we won both games in the last week, we were conference champions,” Faith Christian coach Greg Clifton said. “We didn’t win either one of them. We don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.”
After falling behind by five runs early, Faith Christian rallied back to take the lead with six runs in a fifth inning that featured eight of the first nine batters reaching base.
But the Eagles rallied in the very next half inning. After Chandler Clontz and M.J. Jones reached on free passes, Trey Medlin’s single through the left side of the infield erased the small deficit and gave the Eagles a one-run lead.
“We keep finding ways to win games,” Eagles coach Pat Smith said. “For them to give up six runs and get behind, then be able to come back and score two runs, I thought that was big. It’s not easy to do.”
Meanwhile, Justin Hicks settled in after a rocky start.
He faced only six batters through the final two innings to close out the championship for the Eagles.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org