Top Stories of 2022: A Run at History

Brandon Hall
Mid-Atlantic Scouting Director

Following high school baseball in North Carolina, we all know, there are a ton of great stories, players, and teams to follow each year.  As we continue to look back at 2022, we will take a look at some of the great stories of the year.  Today’s look back features a a team that completed an undefeated season on its way to a NCHSAA 4A State Championship.  Loaded on the mound, they were rarely threatened, but when they were, they responded in championship fashion.

The Providence Panthers have a history of being very good, playing in the NCHSAA 4A level and as of 2022 in the revamped Southwestern 4A Conference.  Entering the 2022 season, the Panthers had high expectations, ranked No. 1 by the NCBCA in their first poll, as well as at the top of the PBR Power 25 rankings.  A powerful roster does not always equate into a State Championship as seniors can begin to look forward, the depth of the roster can create tension in the locker room, and the fact that across the state, there are other very good teams.  Providence met every challenge, going 34-0 overall, 12-0 in the Southwestern 4A, and winning with style.

The season opened with PBR in attendance for a scrimmage against Randleman HS.  Between the two schools, there were numerous MLB Draft follows on the diamond, setting up a day for several scouts to get an early look at each team.  While we did not keep score for the scrimmage, it was evident that Providence was healthy, motivated, and ready to accept the challenge that comes with all of the preseason hype.

After a 5-2 win to open their season, Providence would host Reagan HS, another school with high hopes for the 2022 season, coming off an appearance in the 4A State Championship Series.  Heading to the bottom of the 7th, Providence trailed 10-5 at home but the Panthers would take advantage of a couple of errors and walks, sandwiched with a couple of key hits to set the table for Tommy Walker (2022 grad). Walker stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, and the winning run on second. Walker would end the game with a blast to left field, giving Providence the win it what would be one of their closest call of the year to perfect season.



The Panthers would use the momentum to jump into the heart of the 2022 season, winning their next 5 games via the 10-run rule, 3 versus teams that would make the state playoffs.  It was during this period the pitching staff began to solidify and really dominate opponents.  With Eli Jerzembeck (2022 RHP) and Michael Forret (2022 RHP) headlining the starting opportunities, the staff showed depth with the likes of Dan Donohoe (2023 RHP), Brady Tyler (2023 RHP), Thompson Broadway (2023 RHP), and Collin McDougall (2022 RHP) shoring up the bullpen throughout the year.  After the Reagan game, the Panther staff only allowed 13 runs over the next 9 games in March.  In April, the staff would work 10 games allowing 1 run or less.

The Panthers entered post-season play at 24-0, then winning their conference tournament with 2 shutout wins, defeating East Mecklenburg HS and Butler HS.  As Providence entered the NCHSAA playoffs, the road did not look easy, but being as dominate as they were they knew they were favored in each game.  With the NC playoff system featuring a “one and done” format, meaning if you lose, your season is over, teams that were in Providence’s bracket were setting up their pitching to see if they could align their ace to matchup with the Panthers.

Providence would cruise through the 1st three rounds, beating three good teams in Southeast Guilford (11-1), Southwest Guilford (12-2), and South Mecklenburg (9-1).  As they got to the West Region semi-finals, and the final “one and done” game, the Panthers would face a pitching staff that could potentially matchup with with their power arms.  West Forsyth came down to Charlotte with their pitching aligned to have a chance to take down No. 1. 

This is the game that has tripped up other “best there ever was” HS teams, as they have cruised through their year.  The Panthers would not be denied, winning 4-3.  Tied at 3-3, the Panthers had a runner at 1B when West Forsyth made an errant pickoff throw, allowing the runner to score all the way from 1B.

In the Regional Finals, a best of 3 series, Providence would face off with another program louded in baseball tradition, TC Roberson HS.  Each game in the series was competitive early, but the one-two punch of Jerzembeck and Forret did not allow a run as the Panthers swept the series 10-0 and 3-0 to advance to the state championship series.

Waiting from the East Region in the State Championship Series was Pinecrest HS.  Pincecrest did not have the pure power arms at the front of the rotation that Providence did, but they may have had more fire power in their lineup and there was plenty of depth in the Pinecrest bullpen allowing them to mix and match, changing looks throughout a series, to hopefully keep Providence at bay long enough to make a run.

It almost worked, but the championship desire of the Panther club would not be denied.  In game 1, Jerzembeck fired a gem, shutting out Pinecrest, 3-0.  Jerzembeck punched 10 in the complete game win. McDougal paced the offense with 2 hits, 1 run, and 1 RBI. 

Game two would showcase the depth and desire of two really good clubs.  Forret worked into the 8th inning, giving up just 1 run and striking out 12 as the game continued into the 10th, tied 1-1. Walker would again come up big with a 1 out RBI single in the 10th to give Providence the lead, where they turned the ball over to Jerzembeck to close out the win.  Having thrown 7 innings the night before, Jerzembeck still punched 2 in the save for the championship win.

We can debate where Providence lands in terms of best high school baseball teams in North Carolina’s history.  There have been some very good teams that had very good years in our state’s history.  What cannot be denied is the pressure and expectations that were met by a team of maturing young men as they went 34-0.

Providence Panther Team Notes - 2022:

  • 34-0 Overall

  • 12-0 in Southwestern 4A Conference

  • 3-0 over Spring Break at the Hanahan Invite playing 3 teams from 3 different states

  • 2-0 in their Conference Tournament

  • 8-0 in the NCHSAA 4A State Tournament

  • 14 Team Shutouts

  • 17 Times scoring 10 runs or more