By VAN HOLLAND
The Tarboro Vikings pitching staff has been on point all season, but they ran into a brick wall Thursday night against the Eastern Plains Conference leaders, North Pitt Panthers. North Pitt, who is unbeaten in the conference, pounded out 12 hits and beat the Vikings 14-4 in five innings due to the mercy rule. Tarboro falls to 7-8 overall and 3-4 in conference.
"We know our pitching isn't over powering, because we are a pound the zone type of team," Tarboro coach Justin Smith said. "We don't walk a lot people and we change speeds well to keep our opponents off balance, but they hit the ball tonight."
None of that mattered Thursday, because North Pitt's one through nine batters stroked the ball. Every player in the starting lineup for the Panthers had a hit except one and three of them had two or more hits. Christopher Perry was the spark for the Panthers. He was 3 for 3, hit two, two-run home runs and a double and had six RBI.
"They have guys who can hit from the top to the bottom of their lineup and they are real good offensively," Smith said. "There's not a lot you can do with a team that hits the ball like that. All you can do is keep pounding the zone and try to get them out."
Senior Trey Radford took the loss. He lasted 2 2/3 innings giving up eight runs on seven hits and walked two. Radford had the Panthers right where he wanted them in the first inning after retiring the first two batters to start the game, Bryant Battle then hit a fly ball to right field and it was dropped. Two pitches later Perry hit homer over the left field fence.
Radford then retired the Panthers in order in the second and in the third inning the Panthers bats woke up and the flood gates opened. The Panthers sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the third and scored six runs on six hits. Perry added another two-run homer in the third. The route seemed to be on from there.
Jordyn Holland relieved Radford in the third with two outs and retired the only batter he faced that inning. Holland threw 2 innings giving up six runs on just four hits while walking one.
"Our pitchers did exactly what we asked them to do tonight," Smith said. "I can't be upset with my pitchers, because they faced a good North Pitt team. They hit the ball all over the field and sometimes that is just the breaks we face."
Tarboro's offense woke up in the bottom half of the third. They sent nine people to the plate and scored four runs on four hits, which turned out to be the only four hits they collected in the game. Markese Clapp had a two RBI double and Travis Martin had a RBI single. Tarboro cut the lead in half at 8-4.
"We made a good comeback in the third and cut their lead in half," Smith said. "We executed well that inning and hit the ball."
The Panthers added three more runs in the fourth and fifth innings. They executed hit and runs and moved runners over when they needed them in scoring position.
"I thought we showed a lot of heart tonight especially after trailing 8-0 and made that comeback," Smith said. "We could've just easily rolled over and gave it away, but we fought back. We had some good approaches tonight and it is getting better each game."
Tarboro is now in a position where they need to win the remainder of their games in the conference if they want a shot at making the playoffs.
Each year, after winning the Easter Classic, the Vikings seem to fall apart and have trouble winning games. They have dropped two in a row since they won the classic Friday and Smith hopes they get back on track, because they have only one remaining home conference game left.
Smith hopes all three phases of the game come together before they take the field Tuesday. He knows his team is in a position to make things happen and knows they are capable of winning big games, but they need to start playing at the top of their game and not wait until they get down early on and then try to dig themselves out of a hole.
"We are mentally tired right now," Smith said. "It's coming, but I think with the schedule we have left and the quality of baseball players we have, we are right there. Sometimes you can do everything right in the game and still lose, but I think we are at the point where we are going to make that adjustment and have positive things happen for us."
Tarboro will have senior night 7 p.m. Tuesday when they host the Greene Central Rams in their final home regular season game.