Crusaders dominate in rematch with Warriors

Apr. 27—Grace Christian took on the state's top homeschool team for the second time Thursday night, but this time, the Crusaders had an easy time of it.

The Wake County Warriors, who have spent their spring doing battle with some of the best 3A and 4A public school teams in the state, along with top independent teams, ran into the Crusaders two weeks ago in a neutral-site game at Wilson's Fleming Stadium and limited Grace to just three hits. The Crusaders still won, but only because Camron Seagraves threw a one-hitter.

The Warriors came down to Grace for the second meeting, and this time Seagraves wasn't pitching. It didn't matter, because the Crusaders won the game 12-0. Three Grace players hit home runs, and this time, sophomore Landon McDonald one-hit the Warriors.

Grace (13-5 overall), the top-ranked NCISAA 3A team and also the one who has played the toughest schedule, traveled to NCISAA 2A No. 1 Wayne Country Day (22-3) in a game that ended after press time Friday night. The Crusaders will return to Fleming Stadium today at 5:30 p.m. to face Hoggard (16-4), the second-ranked team in the NCHSAA 4A East Region.

The Warriors had pushed Grace hard in that first meeting, which the Crusaders eventually won 2-0. This time around, neither team had its ace on the hill, but no one got on the board until the Crusaders' Caleb Ellis led off the bottom of the second with a single and then Ethan Bunce doubled to drive him in. The Warriors tried to counter in the top of the third, getting a hit with one out, but Bunce flashed some leather as Grace's catcher and threw him out trying to steal second.

Grace got two hits in the bottom of the third inning, but failed to score, and this game looked like a repeat of the first, a tight pitcher's duel with little offense. But that was about to change.

Ellis reached on an error to start the Grace half of the fourth, and with one out, Alex Pena Jimenez hit a ball over the left-field fence, increasing the Grace lead to 3-0 on one swing. This seemed to open the floodgates for the Crusader offense. Before the inning was over, Grace scored six more runs, including a two-run homer from Boaz Harper that made the score 7-0 at that point.

Holding a 9-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, the Warriors (16-8) needed to keep Grace from scoring in order to continue the game. But Isaiah Arevalo doubled with one out and then Luke Garris reached on an error.

Matt Murchison was the next man up. He hit the first pitch he saw over the center-field fence and the game was over.

Murchison ended up going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and four RBI. Harper and Pena Jimenez each drove in two runs, while Ellis was 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. Seagraves was 2-for-3 with a run scored, and Arevalo reached on a walk and a hit and scored both times.

McDonald needed just 69 pitches to get through the five innings. He struck out seven and walked three.