Vikings' Win Streak Reaches Five Games
The Union Pines baseball team’s high-wire act continued Friday in Hope Mills where the Vikings notched a 5-2 league victory over Gray’s Creek.
Having won three of their previous four games by one-run margins, the Vikings were eventually forced into extra innings by the Bears, who plated a pair of runs in the last of the seventh to tie the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference game at 2-all.
Ultimately, a three-run triple in the top of the eighth inning by sophomore Mason Collins proved to be the game-winner, as the visiting Vikes (5-2, 3-0 CFVC) pushed their current win streak to five games.
After the game Collins said the pitch he hit was a curveball. Whatever it was, from the way it was laced on a line into the gap in right center it is safe to assume it was to his liking.
“Coach (Chad) Hill told me not to swing at a curveball, until I got two strikes on me,” Collins said, “but I was ready on that first pitch and it was a curveball. Thankfully I hit it pretty good and was able to stay down on it because it is always a great feeling to help your team win a ball game any way you can.”
Lately Collins has been doing a lot of that sort of helping. The second-year Union Pines starting left fielder began the night batting .545 on the season with 12 hits, seven RBIs, three doubles and two homers.
Hill admitted after the game that Collins has been a big spark for the Vike offense at the top spot in the batting order.
“Mason continues to do his job as our leadoff guy,” Hills said, “and he keeps delivering clutch results in big situations for us. More importantly, though, he opened the game with a hit, which set the tone for our team, because overall this was a great team effort tonight.
“Even the guys that did not get in (the game to play) were up in the dugout chattering, trying to relay signs to us. Nic (Collins), along with our other pitchers, threw well on the mound, Tyler Barber has been swinging the bat real well and got a huge double for us — so one-through-nine everybody did their job out there.”
A junior starting all season long at third base for Hill, in his first year up on the varsity squad, Barber went 2-for-4 at the plate. In the eighth inning he got a one-out double that put runners on second and third, prompting Gray’s Creek head coach Jeff Nance to intentionally walk ninth-hole hitter Noble Davis and bring M. Collins to the plate with the bags juiced.
Senior shortstop Justin Allred had an especially productive night for Union Pines, getting the pitching win while going 3-for-4 with the stick, including driving in the Vikings first two runs of the tilt. Out of the clean-up spot his hits were especially timely as the Vikings leading hitter and three-year senior captain Nic Collins went 0-for-3 on the night. The left-hand slugger — who carried a .600 batting average, 2.07 slugging percentage and a state-high seven-homer tally along with him into the contest — equaled his strikeout total for all of last season, as the Georgetown commit was caught looking twice for called strike threes in the tilt.
“This win is a big deal because each year we split wins with Gray’s Creek,” said Allred. “Like last year we beat them once and then lost to them once, but I think if we can keep playing like we did tonight we will be very successful in our conference.”
Last season Union Pines finished tied for second in the final league standings with Gray’s Creek (at 9-3 overall) with one conference loss each to the Bears, Douglas Byrd and 2011 3-A CFVC champion Southern Lee, which went 10-2 to take the crown.
Despite being picked fourth in the coaches’ preseason conference rankings poll, Union Pines now stands poised to take early command of the league race.
At 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the conference standing, the defending champion Southern Lee Cavaliers host Union Pines for a first-place clash Tuesday in Sanford.
Hill touched on the mindset of his ball club as it looks toward its next week of action.
“We are really exited right now,” Hill said, “but we also know that there are nine more games ahead of us in conference play. Coming down here to Gray’s Creek is always a good measuring stick, because Coach Nance and his assistants constantly have their team ready to roll and it’s a tough place to get a win.
“I am most pleased with us scratching with two outs in the first and third innings and also with the way our pitchers threw the ball. We have a good little rotation in place now. The guys backed them up playing good defense and it was a great win in extra innings.”
N. Collins started on the mound for Union Pines going 3 2/3 solid innings in which he fanned five batters and allowed no runs on no hits and two walks. Seth Breasseale got the ball next, allowing two runs on two hits and four walks, while striking out three batters.
Union Pines got a run across in the top of the first when Nic Collins reached on an error and later scored on a single up the middle by Allred. In the top of the third the Vikes went up 2-0 as Allred again got a two-out RBI to plate Jeff Thompson from second after Collins moved him to scoring position with a sacrifice grounder.
Junior Tyler Davis earned a save, tossing the final out of the game to close the door on a Gray’s Creek (5-2, 1-1) comeback bid by stranding runners on second and first base.
The Vikings and Southern Lee take the field Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Sanford.
R H E
Union Pines 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 — 5 10 4
Gray’s Creek 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 2 4 2
N. Collins, Breasseale (4) Allred (7) and Davis (8); S. Reeves, D. Taylor (7) and L. Haines. WP – Allred (2-1) LP – Taylor SV – Davis (1); Leading hitters: (UP) –M. Collins 2-5 HR, 3B, 3 RBI, Allred 3-4, 2 RBI, 2B, Barber 2-4, 2B, R, N. Davis. 1-2, 2 BB; (GC) K. Vandenbark 2-3, R, HP.
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