Outburst Propels Vikings Past Eagles
Union Pines used a nine-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth to topple the Western Harnett Eagles 12-2 in the semifinals of the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference baseball tournament Friday in Spring Lake.
The league tourney win was the first for head coach Chad Hill in his six-season career at Union Pines, as the CFVC has not held a conference tournament in more than seven years.
“Western Harnett is a solid team,” said Hill. “We knew they were riding high after a big win over Overhills last night (Thursday) in the first round and all three time we have played them this season, including tonight, have been close games.
“I think it really helped us when they (Eagles) came out ready and sharp, because it really helped get us refocused in a hurry. That was key too, because we had not played since Tuesday and were riding an emotional time with that being senior night.”
With the victory the top-seeded Vikings (16-7) advanced on to Monday’s final against second-seed Gray’s Creek (16-3), which beat Southern Lee 5-4 in the first Friday semifinal tilt at Overhills High School.
Senior Nic Collins tossed five innings to pick up the pitching win for Union Pines, allowing one run on two hits, while scattering five walks with the help of eight strikes out.
“I like the conference tournament, especially being that it is the same format as the playoffs, with the situation being one out and you are done,” said the Vike captain. “This is a good way to get ready for the playoffs and make sure we are in the right mind-set.”
The southpaw came out slinging from the start as he struck out the side in the top of the first in what was the beginning of a tight, competitive and well-played opening five innings of baseball by both squads.
In their half of the first frame the Vikes scratched with two outs to take a 1-0 lead. Junior center-fielder Jeff Thompson kept the inning alive by drawing a walk. He then stole second to get into scoring position for sophomore right-fielder Emmitt Carden, who brought him home with a bullet straight up the middle.
The fourth-seeded Eagles managed to tie the semifinal tilt in the top of the fourth at 1-1, with two walks, a sacrifice and an RBI single to left by Zach Taylor.
Western’s lead was short-lived as Union Pines again rallied with two outs, plating a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame. This time it was junior shortstop Noble Davis who got things started with a walk to turn over the lineup to Collins, the Vikes leadoff hitter.
Collins sent a sinking fly ball the other way that just managed to drop in left center for an RBI double. He moved to third on the throw home and then scored on a wild pitch with his younger brother, sophomore Mason Collins, at bat to give Union Pines a 3-1 lead.
Senior Justin Allred took over the pitching duties for the Vikes to start the sixth inning.
During the frame Western used a walk, an infield hit and a double-steal attempt to close within one of the Vikes. With two outs and runners on the corners Josh Genthe broke early for second, while Sheldon Hotchkiss sprinted home. The Vikings opted to catch Genthe in a rundown, surrendering the run, for the frame’s final out
In their half of the sixth inning the CFVC regular season co-champion Vikes proceeded to explode for nine runs on one out to bring the game to a close.
The rally began with four consecutive hits, including a double by Thompson and a two-strike triple from Allred to right center that plated two runners and made the score 6-2. Allred then scored on a wild pitch to give his squad a five-run edge.
Senior catcher Dylan Kelly then reached on a walk and senior DH Ryan Gilmore got aboard via an error, before Davis belted a backside rifle shot to left center that fell between the two Western Harnett outfielders prior to rolling all the way to the fence for a three-run inside-the-park homer that put Union Pines up 10-2.
In total, 10 batters reached base against three Western pitchers before the first out was recorded in the frame. Other Vikings with RBIs in the frame included pinch hitters Allen Denny and sophomore Dalton Garner — the 13th and final batter of the frame — who ended the eruption and the ball game with a single down the first-base line.
Union Pines and the Gray’s Creek Bears meet Monday at 7 p.m., back in Spring Lake, with both a tournament title and the CFVC’s top state playoff seed on the line.
R H E
W. Harnett 0 0 0 1 0 1 — 2 3 1
Union Pines 1 0 0 0 2 9 — 12 10 2
S. Godfrey, J. Genthe (5), Z. Taylor (6) and K. Marion (6); N. Collins and Allred (6) WP –Collins LP – Godfrey SV – Allred ; Leading hitters – (W) Taylor 1-3, RBI, Genthe 1-3, BB, Marion 1-3, 2B, (U) Davis 2-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB, Carden 2-3 RBI, R, SB, Allred 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI R, N. Collins 1-3, 2B, RBI, R, BB, Thompson 1-1, 2 R, 2BB, S. Breasseale 1-3, RBI, R, SB, Denny 1-1, RBI, Garner 1-1, RBI.
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