Resilient Vikings Top Cavs
Led by the Collins brothers, Union Pines earned a 6-3 victory over Southern Lee Friday night in Cameron.
With the win the Vikings snapped a two-game 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference losing streak, improving their record to 12-6 on the season and 7-2 in league play in the battle for second place in the league standings.
“We kind of had a gut check moment after Tuesday night’s loss,” said Union Pines head coach Chad Hill, “and I am very proud of the way the guys responded tonight.”
Coming off spring break, Hill’s squad opened the week with a 13-2 loss at home to Gray’s Creek in a league clash for first place that saw Union Pines finish with more errors (six) than hits.
“After that loss, I had a talk with the guys and said ‘Hey, somebody’s got to step up,’” Hill said, “and not one guy stepped up or two, but a team full of players tonight stepped up and we beat a really good Southern Lee team.”
Through the first four innings Friday at Viking Field the home team’s prospects did not seem all that promising as Union Pines’ offense had stranded six runners and managed just three singles.
The Cavaliers did all their damage in the top of the second frame off Vike starter Tyler Davis, scoring three runs on two hits and two walks. The big blow in the inning was a two-out, two-run homer by second baseman Nate Brown.
As play entered the bottom of the fifth inning, the Vikes trailed 3-0 in the tilt, but then proceeded to post three runs in their next two at bats to capture a 6-3 edge.
With two on and no outs in the bottom half of the fifth, Vike Jeff Thompson sent a blistering single up the middle to drive home Nic and Mason Collins. The junior center fielder later scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by senior Seth Breasseale.
Then, in the top half of the sixth Thompson did some serious work with his glove, robbing an extra-base hit with an over-the-shoulder sprinting snag to record the second out of the frame. The web gem — made on a sizzling, high-sinking liner off the bat of Ethan Helsman — caused the home crowd to ooh and ah in amazement and seemingly took all the air from the visiting Cavs’ tires.
“I knew it was going to be a tough ball as soon as it came off the bat because it was a line drive,” Thompson said, “and I had to make up my mind really quick. So I just took off, knowing it was going to be a big play and if I didn’t catch it the guy was going be at second (base) at least.”
Thompson went 2-for-3 with the stick, including a triple, two RBIs and a sacrifice
“I love being able to help my team win in any way possible,” he said. “It feels great that I was able to help some with my bat and my fielding in this one, which was a really key win for us because a lot of our guys had confidence issues after the second straight league loss Tuesday. We had a lot of errors in the field and made lots of mistakes in both of those games, but we still came out and practiced hard this week and we got it done tonight. Everybody came up big when they had to.” In their next at bat the Vikings mounted a two-out, three-run rally to grab a 6-3 lead through six innings. Senior captain Nic Collins delivered the game-winning blast on a two-run homer to dead right that measured over 390 feet. Sophomore second baseman Mason Collins, following his older brother’s lead, gave his team a three-run cushion by belting a solo shot over the right-field scoreboard to make it back-to-back round trippers for the Collins boys.
After the game Nic, who batted in the leadoff spot in the order for the Vikes, spoke about the importance of the win for Union Pines as it looks to move forward to the stretch run.
“It is huge to get this win against Southern Lee, because now we are back in the game,” he said. “We are just a game back of first-place Gray’s Creek, and anything can happen on a given night as the league schedule unfolds, so it puts us back in a good position.”
Gray’s Creek (13-2), the sixth-ranked 3-A team in the state according to Impactbaseball.com, leads the CFVC with a mark of 7-1. Second-place Union Pines is the only team to top the league-leading Bear’s this season, pulling out a 5-2 road win in Hope Mills. Southern Lee fell to 6-3 in league action to occupy the third spot, and 11-9 overall, after suffering a sweep in the regular season series with the Vikes.
Collins admitted after the tilt he liked leading off in the lineup and was also a proud older brother.
“I love to be in the first spot,” Collins said. “It gets you in the game right off the bat and get’s you more at bats. To have Mason batting behind me was a thrill and I am just so proud of him to no end. He has stepped up for us numerous times this year and he did it again tonight — so yeah, I am just so proud of him as a brother and a teammate.”
Mason finished the night 3-for-3 batting in the two-hole behind his older brother, with two runs, a sacrifice and a steal. The left-handed swinging sophomore also had a key double during the Vikes’ fifth-inning rally — keeping it alive by smoking a slicer down the third-base line to put runners at second and third for Thompson.
Justin Allred tossed five scoreless innings in relief of Tyler Davis to get the pitching victory. The senior allowed just one hit, coming in the third frame which was his first inning of work. From there he faced 19 batters without allowing another. Allred tallied seven strike outs against five free passes.
Union Pines returns to CFVC action Tuesday in Lillington against league foe Western Harnett at 7 p.m.
R H E
Southern Lee 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 — 3 3 2
Union Pines 0 0 0 0 3 3 x — 6 8 2
Davis and Allred (3); C. Gaines and C. Wenger (6) WP – Allred LP – C. Gaines; Leading hitters – (S) C. Boyette 1-2, 2 BB, R, Gaines 1-3 R, RBI, Brown 1-1 HR, 2 BB, 2 RBI,(U) M Collins 3-3, 2B, SAC, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB, N. Collins 1-1, 2 R, HR, 2 HP, 2 RBI, Thompson 2-3, 3B, R, SAC, RBI, S. Breasseale 1-1, SAC-F, HP, RBI, A. Harward 1-3, R.
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