GARNER — One of the most storied high school athletic programs in the country came to Garner for a baseball game on Wednesday.
And although the Trojans weren’t able to accomplish a major upset, they proved they were able to go toe-to-toe with some of the best anywhere.
Patrick Birrer’s two-run homer in the fourth inning provided the go-ahead run, and Cincinnati Moeller led the rest of the way in a 6-3 victory over the Trojans.
Moeller’s win came after a 4-0 victory over Hillsborough Orange at Garner earlier on Wednesday. Moeller (9-1), which has won two straight Ohio state championships, is ranked No. 17 nationally by MaxPreps.
Garner fell to 9-5.
“It was a good tight game,” Trojan coach Derik Goffena said. “Two errors just killed us in the (seventh) inning. Even though they hit the ball the errors led to most of their runs.
“They’re a good team. We’re disappointed we lost. Once we got in it and saw we could win, it was disappointing not to get it done. (Brighton Hudson) threw well. Take away the home run on a fastball he left up and he did great. He made one mistake and they took advantage of it.”
Sophomore lefty Nick Bennett, who already has offers from Louisville and Kentucky, was the winning pitcher, going five innings and allowing two runs on eight hits with six strikeouts against three walks.
“We played some very good teams here,” Moeller coach Tim Held said. “Garner is a very good club. They’re out there battling, and playing a team like this will help us get ready for our conference back home.
“Bennett came out and battled. But Garner was swinging the bats. When they saw something fat they were hacking.”
Hudson (4-2), who will pitch for Mount Olive next season, was up to the challenge, allowing three runs on three hits while striking out 10 against three walks.
“I was a little nervous at the start,” Hudson said. “But I like pitching against teams like that. I think I prepared better because I knew how good they were. Against a mediocre team you don’t know what to expect. But against a team like that you know you have to have your ‘A’ game.”
Birrer finished with the homer and a double to lead the Crusaders, while Zach Logue doubled and singled and Mitch Meece added a pair of hits.
Colin Pippen had three infield hits to lead Garner, while catcher Grayson Lee chipped in a pair of hits with an RBI.
“We played pretty well together,” Lee said. “But we could have been better. I think we showed we can play against a higher-level team. If we’d been a little more sound on the field we might have had them at the end.”
Bennett allowed four hits in the first inning but was able to hold the Trojans to a single run. Saylon Kieft led off with a double, advanced on Hudson’s bunt and scored on Cody Jones’ grounder to third.
“I just wanted to throw strikes and see what my defense could do behind me,” Bennett said. “It didn’t go exactly like I wanted it to go, but we got the job done.”
The visitors tied it in the third as Riley Mahan led off with a double and stole third before scoring on Logue’s one-out single.
Garner had another run in the bottom of the frame as Jones drew a leadoff walk, took third on an errant pickoff attempt and scored on Lee’s single.
But in the fourth Meece drew a leadoff walk before Birrer launched a 1-2 pitch over the fence in center to make it 3-2.
Moeller added three runs off Shane Ward on four hits and a pair of errors in the seventh.
Hudson walked to lead off the seventh against Nicholas Voss. After Brayden Sims drew a bases-loaded two-out walk to finish the scoring the Trojans got the winning run to the plate, but were unable to capitalize.