Vikings Topple Eagles
The Union Pines baseball team picked up a solid 6-1 victory over Douglas Byrd Tuesday in Fayetteville to remain undefeated in 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference play.
Union Pines improved to 9-3 on the season, while remaining perfect atop the CFVC standings with a mark of 6-0 while completing the regular-season series sweep against Douglas Byrd.
Vike senior captain Nic Collins had a big night with the stick, going 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and an intentional walk. The round-tripper was his eighth of the season, making him the state home run leader along with Southwestern Randolph’s Jake Hall.
“We owed them something from last year for sure,” said Collins after the game.
Last season the Vikings were 9-1 and in a tie for first place in the CFVC standings prior to their final two league games. Then, after a loss on the road to Southern Lee in a battle for first place, Union Pines finished the season against Douglas Byrd in Fayetteville with a 7-1 loss that cost them a solo second-place finish in the league standings.
“The loss here to close the regular season has been in the back of our minds since we started the year,” said Collins. “That was one of our main goals — to make sure we get these two wins (against Douglas Byrd.)”
In his postgame comments, Hill echoed Collins’ sentiments.
“Fayetteville had left a bad taste in my mouth since the loss last year,” said Hill. “So I made sure to remind the guys of that before this game and they came out with a businesslike approach tonight. A 6-1 ball game really speaks for itself on the scoreboard. No matter how it looks when we leave, a win is a win, and I am proud of the way the guys played tonight.”
Union Pines grabbed a two-run lead in the first on a single by Collins that plated Jeff Thompson, and a sacrifice fly by Justin Allred that brought in Collins.
After scoring an unearned tally in the top of the second, the Vikes then extended their lead to 6-0 by striking for three runs in the fourth frame on Collins’ two-run moonshot to right and an RBI knock up the middle by Seth Breasseale.
Allred got the ball to start the game for the Vikings on the mound. With deft command of his fastball, curveball and change-up, the senior put in three quality innings of work, allowing no runs, one hit and one walk, while fanning seven Byrd batters.
“As we gear up for the second run through our conference schedule we just need our pitchers to throw more strikes,” said Allred, “and as a staff we did a good job of that in this one. When we are throwing strikes as a staff it helps us to play better defense too.
“Lately we have been crisp on defense. I know I am much more comfortable when I am playing shortstop then I was to begin the season, and I feel confident in the guys backing me up when I do take the mound and pitch.”
Hill stayed true to his initial game plan and pulled Allred after three frames. Junior Noble Davis then tossed the fourth and fifth frames for Union Pines — allowing a run on two hits, two walks and a hit batter — followed by Tyler Davis in the sixth and Collins in the seventh.
The four Union Pines pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts while yielding just four hits and five free passes.
“We were on an innings- or pitch-count plan with our (pitching) staff tonight,” explained Hill. “Justin (Allred) was right at his allotted innings and close to his count, so it worked out perfectly. We have a four-man rotation that we have been going with the first half of conference, and while we tweaked some things to get Justin a start and letting Nic flip-flop with Tyler Davis in the end, it all luckily went as planned. Each of the guys threw really well.”
The Vikings were scheduled to return to league action Thursday against the Overhills Jaguars (11-5, 3-4 CFVC) in Spring Lake. As of Thursday afternoon Union Pines held a one-game lead over second place Gray’s Creek (10-2, 5-1) and a two-game edge over defending league champion Southern Lee (8-5, 5-2) in the loss column.
Still, Hill maintained that he wants his squad — which was picked to finish fourth in the coaches preseason league poll — to maintain the approach it carried into game to start the season of being the hunter instead of the hunted.
“Our approach has not changed a bit since the very first conference game we played,” said Hill. “Last year we were 9-1 going into the last two ball games and finished second place. So we know what we have to do. It is just a matter of execution right now and we are definitely hunting Overhills come Thursday, because a win against them is our next goal.”
R H E
Union Pines 2 1 0 3 0 0 0 — 6 5 1
Douglas Byrd 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 — 1 4 1
Allred, N. Davis (4), T. Davis (6) and Collins (7); Z. Hall, S. Sylvester (3) and J. Huggins (7) WP – N. Davis, LP – Hall ; Leading hitters – (U) Collins 2-3 HR, 3 RBI IBB, S. Breasseale 1-1, 2 BB, HBP, RBI, Allred 1-3, 2B, SAC-F, SB, RBI, E. Carden 1-3, SB, (D) Huggins 2-4, R, J. Daniel 1-2, BB, Hall 1-3, Sylvester 0-1, RBI, HBP.
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