With 3A state playoff implications riding on the game for both teams Friday night, and it being West Craven’s Senior Night, emotions were palpable from the first pitch as the Havelock took on the Eagles Friday night.
The drama only intensified from there, with the winning team making the playoffs and the losing team sitting home for the postseason.
While the Eagles started only two seniors in Justin Taylor and Adam Stephens, it was a sophomore and a junior that won the game in the end for West Craven, 7-6.
Both teams’ aces, Josh Little of Havelock and Taylor for West Craven, struggled and got hit hard early.
After Havelock tied the game 6-6 in the top of the seventh on a passed-ball strike three, and a throwing error, the stage was set for a potential West Craven walkoff.
With two outs, Jason Parker ripped a double to left-center off Havelock reliever Cameron Carpenter. Carpenter then intentionally walked Anthony Rossi to get to Adam Amerson.
Amerson lofted a blooper toward right field that fell between Havelock’s Tanner Johnson and Josh Little. Parker raced around third, slid underneath and into Rams’ catcher Travis Sabdo and was called safe for the winning run, sending the Eagles into the playoffs and delirium - and the Rams home.
Parker was mobbed behind home plate and Eagles’ coach Mike McKeel fell to both knees in relief.
“Such a great game and I am really speechless,” McKeel said. “(Josh) Little showed what he was made of and how good a ballplayer he was bringing them back and battling all night. It’s just a pretty special thing for those two kids (Parker and Amerson) to win for the seniors tonight.”
West Craven jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first before Havelock scored two in the second and two in the third to tie it 4-4.
The Rams went ahead 5-4 in the fourth on a bases loaded walk to Luke Magyar only to see West Craven tie it back up in the bottom of the fourth.
The Eagles went ahead on a strange occurrence in the fifth when a balk was called on Little, scoring Anthony Abrams.
All of that chaos was prior to the climactic ending in the seventh.
“I’m proud of these guys, real proud of them,” Havelock coach Matt James said. “Our heart was bigger than our talent at times this year but just like tonight, they never quit. It’s going to hurt not having a game to prepare for next week because we think we are good enough to be there.”
Reserve Ryan Toler was also honored on Senior Night with Taylor and Stephens.
“I know I’ve told you this many times before but it’s true - I wouldn't trade these guys for anybody,” McKeel said.
West Craven improves to 14-8 overall and 7-5 in the Coastal 3A Conference, taking second place
The Rams finished the year 11-11, with seven losses of two runs or less.