Vikings Outduel Patriots
What began as a home run derby quickly turned into a fortifying defensive effort Monday evening as the Union Pines Vikings took down the Pinecrest Patriots 4-2 in Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League baseball at Viking Field.
UPHS vs PHS Summer Baseball
Union Pines hosted Pinecrest Monday at Viking Field in Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League baseball action. The Vikes took the first of two games scheduled this week between their cross-county rival Patriots by a score of 4-2. Photos by Philip Taylor.
The Patriots wasted no time jumping out in front of the Vikings. Left fielder Chance Castillo started the game with a leadoff double off the wall in left center field and proceeded to steal third base.
First baseman Dylan Wallace stepped to the plate with two outs and capitalized for the Pats. Wallace crushed a ball to straightaway center field for a home run to put Pinecrest up early on, 2-0.
The Vikes responded quickly. Left fielder Mason Collins led off for the home team and rode a pitch over the wall in right center field for a solo homer, cutting the early deficit to a run. Two batters later, center fielder Jeffrey Thompson evened things up for the Vikings. Thompson sent another solo shot to right center with one out, tying the game at 2-2.
Pitching and defense for each opponent turned up the heat in the second inning.
Despite only striking out two batters, Union Pines’ Clay Thomas pitched four consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only four hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch along the way.
“I think he got relaxed,” Union Pines head coach Chad Hill said. “He settled in. Other than him finding a good groove from the second to the fifth, that was about it.”
Pinecrest showed its last serious threat trailing 3-2 in the top of the fifth. Right fielder Jackson Smith led off the inning with a single and advanced to second base following a throwing error by Thomas on an attempted pickoff.
Smith was caught in a pickle on a grounder from third baseman Joe Cirigliano, who reached first safely on the fielder’s choice. Second baseman Ryan Bender hit a one-hopper to right field, advancing Cirigliano to second base and putting two runners on as they Patriots headed back to the top of the lineup.
Castillo grounded up the middle to Carden, who took it to the bag himself and launched a wide throw to first base. First baseman Dalton Garner was pulled off of the base but made an impressive spinning tag for the 4-3 double play to end the Patriot threat.
“Defense played good behind Thomas,” Hill said. “That’s what we’ve been stressing to the guys. Throw strikes and let our defense make the play, and he definitely did it.
Pinecrest pitcher Matt Epley also had a strong outing but the performance wasn’t quite enough. Epley pitched 5.1 innings, allowing four runs on six hits, one walk and six strikeouts, including a span of five straight between the fourth and fifth innings.
“Four runs in this ballpark is usually enough to win,” Pinecrest assistant coach Daniel Coles said. “Usually a game at this park is going to be a shootout. It’s going to be nine to 10 (runs), or even higher than that. We feel like if we only give up four, we should win a game, so Epley did fine.”
Epley issued his lone walk to lead off the bottom of the second. Catcher Tyler Davis failed to bunt Dick over to second, but he reached base on the fielder’s choice.
Following a pop-out, a wild pitch in the dirt moved Davis into scoring position. Collins blasted a pitch into the gap in left center field, driving Davis home to give the Vikings their first lead of the contest at 3-2.
The Pats defense sat down the next eight Vikings. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Carden hit a roller between shortstop and third base, giving him plenty of time to leg out an infield single.
Following a steal by Carden, Thompson singled down the left field line to score Carden from second. Thompson was tagged out trying to leg out a double to end the inning, but the damage was done as Union Pines took a 4-2 lead.
Noble Davis relieved Thomas in the sixth and shut down the Patriot offense, sitting down six straight batters to end the game for the Vikes.
Union Pines moved to 3-4-1 on the season while Pinecrest drops to 1-5 after its fourth straight loss.
Prior to the varsity matchup, the Patriots toppled the Vikings 14-0 in junior varsity play.
The cross-county rivals were scheduled to face off again in a junior-varsity/varsity doubleheader rematch Tuesday at Pinecrest. Go online to www.thepilot.com for results and see Friday’s Sports section for a recap.
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