Vikings Stumble Against Raiders
The Union Pines varsity baseball team dropped a pair of Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League games to the Richmond Senior Raiders Tuesday in Rockingham.
Initially the two Southwest division squads were scheduled to open the week with a Monday tilt at Union Pines in Cameron, but the contest was postponed due to inclement weather.
Rain, thunder and lightning were again on tap for Tuesday’s action as an 81-minute rain delay between games made for a late night of baseball in Richmond County.
In the end the homestanding Raiders won both ballgames, each initially scheduled to be five innings, by scores of 12-0 and 7-1.
Richmond took early control of game one by plating seven runs in the bottom of the first. The Raiders had eight batters reach base before an out was recorded in the frame, with six of those players getting aboard via hits.
The hole was too deep for the Vikes to crawl out of as Union Pines managed just one hit in the 12-0 loss, which was cut short at three innings after the rain delay, according to a mutual decision from both teams’ coaches.
In game two, Union Pines grabbed an early 1-0 lead when three-hole hitter Jeffrey Thompson blasted a double to left center to score Mason Collins, who had opened the contest by getting aboard with a walk.
However, two Viking errors in the bottom half of the first allowed the Raiders to tie the game at 1-all without even swinging the bat. Richmond plated three runs in the bottom of the third on three hits, three walks and a sacrifice to lead 4-1.
Three Vike errors led to three more Richmond runs, as the home team took a 7-1 lead through four innings of play. The score held up, as Union Pines went down in order in the top of the fifth and final inning.
After the game Union Pines assistant head coach Eric Marion spoke about the Vikings’ overall youth as a unit and how the group’s collective limited experience at the varsity level has them facing a somewhat steep learning curve.
“Losing nine seniors and having a young team with not much varsity experience, you are going to hit some bumps in the road,” said Marion. “Wild pitches, walks and hit by pitches have all killed us this summer, then adding errors on top of that makes it tough.”
The Vikings’ permanent varsity CCSSL roster consists of three rising seniors, seven rising juniors, three rising sophomores and a rising freshman. Of those 14 players only six guys — Collins, Thompson, Tyler Barber, Tyler Davis and Emmitt Carden — have any prior varsity experience.
Over the seven innings Union Pines took the field for defense Tuesday against Richmond, the team amassed eight errors, seven wild pitches, seven walks and two hit by pitches. In total, 10 of the Raiders’ 19 runs were unearned.
“The good news is a majority of these guys are younger and are getting the varsity experience now so they will know what to expect next season,” said Marion. “The speed of the game is a little different for them now, and I think that is showing. However, I think the experience they are getting is going to benefit this group more than anything.
“They understand a little more now how that walk, hit by pitch or wild pitch can come back to bite you. More than anything it is a learning experience, and we are using it as a tool to get them all ready for next (school) season.”
One player who had a particularly solid performance for Union Pines against Richmond was rising senior Jeffrey Thompson.
On the night the lefty played center field in the first game and tossed the opening three innings in the second, allowing three earned runs on two hits and six free passes while fanning five batters. At the plate he went 3-for-3, including the double to drive in the Vikes’ sole run, and he also swiped a base.
“I thought Jeff (Thompson) threw well enough to keep us in the second game,” said Marion. “It seemed like every batter he faced he went to a full count, so his pitch count got up there pretty quick. He has really good stuff on the mound, as was evident by some of the swings their guys were taking.
“We were a pitch or two away and an error or two away in the field from being right in that game. I think he (Thompson) is gaining more and more confidence on the mound each time he toes the rubber, which is good to see, especially after not throwing many innings for us this past school year. He has also been consistent with the bat — he swung it well all school year and has continued that throughout the summer.”
With the loss, Union Pines dropped to 3-9-1 on the summer, while the Raiders improved to 11-0 in CCSSL action. The Vikings were scheduled to close the week Thursday at their home field in Cameron, against West Stanly.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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