RALEIGH — Sanderson, led by senior pitcher Daniel Dulaney’s 13 strikeouts, captured the Cap Eight title Thursday with a 7-1 win over Millbrook.
Dulaney, who tallied 17 strikeouts in the Spartans’ last game against the Wildcats, finished with a line of two walks and one hit.
“We put ourselves in a situation where we would watch a first-pitch fastball then swing at a second-pitch curveball, or swing at a first-pitch curveball and watch a second-pitch fastball.” Millbrook coach Austin James said. “When you get yourself in a hole against that kind of pitcher that’s on like that it makes it really difficult on yourself.”
With seven straight wins, outscoring opponents 51-4, the Spartans are hitting their stride heading into the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin Wednesday.
“Great pitching has been the consistent thing,” Spartans coach Todd Laughlin said, “but our bats coming around has really helped seal the deal. ... I think the combination of our off-season workouts, the in-season practices and having talented players has allowed us to play at such a high level. It’s great to see everything click and all the boys pulling in the same direction.”
Sanderson, which won the Cap Eight title last year, struggled early in the season.
“(We were) frustrated and discouraged sitting at 1-3, but we kept fighting and we kept battling and we strung 10 conference wins in a row. That’s pretty awesome.”
From the other dugout, James was confident in the Wildcats despite the loss.
“As far as just the trajectory of the season, I still feel as good about us as I did three weeks ago,” he said. “We’re led by some really tough seniors that are going to take this one really hard then be ready to play anybody that we get to face next week.”
Millbrook went undefeated in the conference during the first half of the regular season before dropping three of its last five games.
“The bump is attributed to really good play by the other teams and we weren’t on,” James said. “The only way you can fix that is to keep playing and stick to the things that we’ve been doing all year.”
One way the Wildcats have been sticking to their routine is working alongside team manager Kevin Iannucci. Iannucci, whose job responsibilities include taking the baseballs to the umpire and singing the national anthem on Thursday, is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
“He puts a whole new spirit in our dugout.” James said of Iannucci. “It was a great night for him to be able to [sing the national anthem] and for our guys to be able to see how happy it made him. He’s just a great kid that helps us keep in mind that at the end of the day, this is just a game and it’s really nice when you can make somebody else happy. He loves coming out here and we really love having him.”