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Bears clinch playoff berth

ELIZABETH CITY – They’re in n again.

Hertford County High School clinched their second baseball playoff berth in three years under the tutelage of Head Coach Chris Towell Tuesday night.

The Bears rocked Pasquotank County High School 16-7 behind a complete game from Heath Britt and 20 hits. The Northeastern Coastal Conference win over the Panthers put the Bears at 7-3 in the league and clinched a spot in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3-A playoffs.

“We’re starting to click at the right time,” Towell said. “We’re pleased to be back in the playoffs and we have a chance to be the number one 3-A seed and go 9-3.”

Towell said the trip back to the playoffs after a one-year absence was key for his team.

“It’s very important from the standpoint of trying to get guys excited about baseball,” Towell stressed. “We have a good group of kids who have really worked hard.”

HCHS started slowly during their visit to Pasquotank, but came alive to pull away and win.

“We came out flat and fell behind,” Towell said. “We strung some hits together and scored some runs and finally took control in the sixth and seventh innings.”

Trailing 3-1 heading into the fifth, the Bears plated seven runs to take the lead for good.

Corey Saunders got things started with a double to center. He took third on a wild pitch. After Ryan Matthews was hit by a pitch, a wild pickoff throw allowed him to advance to third after Saunders scored.

Matthews then scored on an RBI-single by Michael Burton. Britt singled and Andre Lyles drew an intentional walk to load the bases.

Edward Joyner’s RBI-single scored Burton and then Britt scored on a Jacob Dunlow infield single.

Latrael Ashe’s double cleared the bases, scoring Lyles, Joyner and Dunlow to give Hertford County an 8-3 lead.

The Panthers bounced back to score four runs in the bottom of the inning and get back within 8-7, but HCHS broke open the game with five more runs in the sixth.

Burton, Britt and Lyles had consecutive singles to load the bases. Burton and Britt scored on a Joyner two-run single to right. Lyles then scored on a Dunlow sacrifice fly.

Joyner came home on an Ashe RBI-triple to center. Ashe also scored because of an error on the play, giving the Bears a comfortable 13-7 lead.

HCHS added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Matthews singled to center, stole second and went to third on a Britt single. He then scored on a wild pitch. Britt moved to third on a Lyles groundout and scored on a Joyner RBI-single to center.

Joyner advanced to third on a Dunlow single and scored on a wild pitch to establish the 16-7 final.

Hertford County’s first run came in the top of the fourth. Lyles had singled to left and went to second on an error. He advanced to third on a Joyner groundout and scored on a Dunlow RBI-groundout to trim what was then a deficit to 3-1.

Britt tossed all seven innings for his fourth win. He allowed seven runs on seven hits while striking out 12.

“Heath pitched a solid game for us,” Towell said afterwards.

The Bears had 20 hits on the afternoon.

Joyner led the team with four hits and four RBIs. Matthews, Burton and Britt had three hits each. Ashe added two hits and four RBIs while Lyles and Dunlow had two hits each.

While his teams have reached the playoffs in two of three seasons at the helm, Towell gave all the credit to his team.

“A coach just makes out a lineup card and they do the work,” he said. “I mean that with this team. We have three senior leaders who can handle it.”

The Bears are now 9-12 overall and 7-3 in the league. They will host Currituck Tuesday on Senior Day at HCHS.