CHARLOTTE – Providence left little doubt that they are the So.Meck 7 baseball champs after sweeping South Meck and winning the league championship on April 25.
Since rival Ardrey Kell won the So. Meck title in 2014, the Panthers have gone on a dominating run that has seen them win six straight titles, five of which have come outright.
During that stretch, the Panthers, who improved to 21-3 overall and 12-0 in league play, have put up a 75-7 (.915 win percentage) conference record.
They came into the South Meck two-game series tied with the Sabres with matching unbeaten conference marks, but it didn’t take long for the Panthers to assert their dominance.
Hard-throwing Appalachian State commit Noah Hall was brilliant in the series opener at South Meck on April 23 as the Panthers pounded out 13 hits and cruised to a 10-1 win.
Hall had the Sabres off balance from the opening pitch and sailed through five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven while walking four.
In his final inning, Hall struck out Breon Ishmael with the bases loaded, killing the Sabres’ biggest rally.
“It was a good win and that’s a good club over there,” Providence coach Danny Hignight said. “They can hit and that’s as good as an offensive team as we’ve seen all year. Our kids played extremely hard, they work their butts off and they’re well prepared and Noah has been great for us all year.”
Hall’s dominance was plenty for the Panthers offense, which was paced by senior Patrick Bloomingburg who crushed a solo homer to left centerfield and went 3-for-4 with four runs scored, a double and a key hit by pitch to open the game that set the tone for the win.
“I need to be a leader on this team,” he said. “That’s a key thing for me – to show the younger guys, stay calm and do my thing. Right now I’m focused on getting better, putting in the extra work and helping out my teammates as much as I can.”
Bloomingburg, who has signed to play football and baseball at Gardner Webb, set the table as the Panthers offense came alive in the third inning.
“Patrick is our starting centerfield, and he’s in our leadoff spot,” Hignight said. “He’s a good player and a great athlete but we have a ton of great athletes. You look at our outfield with him, Sam Kagan who is our cleanup hitter and (Walker Wolfe) in the three hole for us. Them and the guys in the dirt have been great. It’s a total team effort. They’ve been great all year.”
After Bloomingburg led off with a single, Michael Dansky, who finished 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, doubled him in. After intentionally walking Sam Kagan, Ethan Reese drove in Dansky to give Providence a 3-0 lead.
Bloomingburg and Dansky struck again in the fifth with back-to-back doubles that keyed a four-run inning and chased South Meck starter Jackson Benjamin.
Benjamin lasted 4.3 innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs as the Panthers put pressure on him at every turn.
In the second game on April 25, the Panthers had much of the same success as Reese, a returning all-state pitcher/first baseman, shut them down to get the win.
The Panthers jumped to a 2-0 lead in the third inning, but the Sabres scored two off Reese in the top of the fourth inning, including a James Johnson solo homer.
But from there, the Panthers bats took over as they scored 12 times in the bottom of the fourth and cruised to a 14-4 win.
“We’re firing on all cylinders right now and it feels really different,” Reese said. “We’re all really close and we have really good team chemistry this year. We’re playing our roles, doing what we’re taught and not trying to do too much. We’re doing our jobs.
“Our chemistry and how relaxed we play are probably our biggest strengths. That’s going to help us in the future when those big games come up. It’s going to be a big key.”