Vikes Stop Bucks
The Union Pines baseball team hosted the Hoke County Bucks Monday in doubleheader Central Carolina Scholastic Summer league action at Viking Field in Cameron.
At the end of the day Union Pines came away with a 4-4 tie in game one and a 5-4 victory in game two, improving to 2-2-1 on the young CCSSL season. Both the tilts were five-inning varsity contests in order to make up for a game last week with Hoke (0-2-1) that was rained out.
In each of the two ballgames Union Pines produced all of its offense in its first at bat. The Vikings plated four runs in the bottom of the first in the opening game with a two-run homer by Jeffrey Thompson serving as the big blow to give his squad a 4-1 lead.
Thompson, a rising senior, recently participated in the State Games last week in Winston-Salem as a member of the Region 4 club, and Vike head coach Chad Hill has already noticed a difference in his starting center fielder’s demeanor.
“I think the air of confidence that Jeffrey brought into the dugout tonight is already a senior-based caliber leadership,” said Hill. “This past week (at the State Games) could not do anything but give him even more confidence and show him he can play with the best guys in the state.”
Hill was one of the coaches selected as an assistant for the Region 4 team.
“Hopefully he will bring all that experience back and the other kids will watch him,” Hill added, “and how he goes about approaching different things and fall in line with him.”
Hoke picked up a run in the top of the second and a scored twice in the fourth to tie the tilt. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Thompson just missed a second homer on a blast to left center that hit the wall. However, he eventually made the final out of the game when he was gunned down at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Kyle Robinson pitched the first four innings for Union Pines, allowing four runs on five hits, while Tyler Davis tossed the fifth frame in the no-decision appearance.
The evening’s second ball game began as a comedy of errors.
In the top of the first, Hoke plated three unearned runs on two hits and three Viking errors. Buck third baseman Austin Spencer got the first run across the plate on a single that found the hole between first and second. He later scored when a single off the bat of Zach Thompson got by Robinson in right. Then Thompson crossed home on a double steal, when Union Pines opted to throw down to second base for out No. 2, as the Bucks grabbed a 3-0.
Union Pines answered with a five-spot in their half of the first inning, using two hits, three walks, one Buck balk and two errors to grab a 5-3 lead.
Dalton Garner led the inning off by reaching on an error and Tyler Barber moved him to second by drawing a four-pitch walk. After making two straight outs, the Vikes then rallied as Tyler McRae drew a walk to load the bases. After Garner scored on a balk by Hoke starter Eric Barrington, Vike starting pitcher J.W. Dick got an RBI on an infield single to cut the score to 3-2.
From there another Hoke error on a ball hit to second by Davis brought home McRae tying the tilt at 3-all, before Robinson delivered the game-winning hit to left in the form of a two-run single.
Over the next three innings the Viking offense was quiet, registering no hits while reaching twice on walks and once on an error. However, Dick and relief pitcher Clay Thomas, who tossed the fourth and fifth frames, combined forces to overcome two Vike errors while scattering three hits and three free passes to allow just one run and procure the victory.
In his three innings of work Dick allowed three unearned runs while walking four batters and fanning three to pick up the win.
“J.W. (Dick) throws strikes,” Hill said. “That is the biggest key. He pounds the zone and his ball moves a lot — his changeup moves a lot and his two-seamer (fastball) has good movement — and he misses the (opponent’s) sweet spot a lot. Both he and Thomas came in and give our defense a chance to make plays, which is all you can ask for as a team.”
Thomas was credited with the save, allowing one unearned run, two doubles and three walks while striking out two batters.
“I was very impressed with our mental makeup as a team,” said Hill. “We had our backs against the wall quite a few times and our pitchers threw strikes. We made some key plays and had sort of a bend but didn’t break mentally tonight.”
Union Pines was scheduled to take on cross-county rival North Moore Tuesday in Cameron.
Thursday the Mustangs return to Viking Field with junior varsity CCSSL action beginning at 4 p.m. and the varsity scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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