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Fifth inning of opening games proves to Warhorse' undoing

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Hitting the road for the state playoffs after finishing the regular season strong, the Owen Warhorses fell in the first round on May 10.

The Warhorses, a number 20 seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, opened their postseason at Bunker Hill High School in Claremont near Hickory.

Owen won six of its final eight regular-season games to finish second in the Western Highlands Conference with a 9-3 record. The team's postseason appearance was the 17th straight under head coach Anthony Lee.

The Warhorses got great pitching from senior Thomas Neal, who held the Bunker Hill Bears hitless through four innings. After the left-handed pitcher walked a pair of batters to start the fifth inning, a ground ball toward the gap at first base loaded the bases with no outs.

To get the Warhorses out of the inning, Lee pulled Neal and put senior Brian Bartlett in. But a curveball that caught too much of the plate was drilled just over third for a base-clearing triple.

“(Bartlett) couldn’t have thrown the ball in a better place,” Lee said. “I mean (the batter) hit a line shot just over our third baseman’s head, right down the left field line.”

The fourth Bunker Hill run came after an errant thrown in a rundown hit the baserunner in the back.

“We didn’t hit the ball,” Lee said. “The last two ballgames we had a total of six hits - you’re not going to win ballgames like that, I don’t care what kind of pitching you have.”

Bunker Hill came into the postseason as a number 11 seed with an 18-8 overall record. The Warhorses finished the season with an 11-9 overall mark.

“I knew it would be two well-matched teams playing each other,” Lee said. “I think they just got the key hit at the right time and we never could string two or three hits together.”

Ffighting for the playoff, the Warhorses averaged just over seven runs per game through their final eight regular season games.

"These boys represented the Valley well, and we wish them success going forward,” Lee said. “And we really appreciate the community’s support.”

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