By VAN HOLLAND
The Tarboro Vikings have turned into the comeback kids. They trailed in two of three games in the 20th Annual Tarboro Easter Classic and found a way to make comebacks each time. The last time was the biggest, because that comeback helped crown them the 2013 Classic champions. They defeated Lawrence Academy 9-8 Friday night at Municipal Stadium in front of a large home crowd.
That was the second win of the day for Tarboro, because they had to beat Jefferson Area from Ohio, in the first game of the day to get into the title game. They accomplished that by scoring six unanswered runs on just three hits.
"Our team played hard today in both games," Tarboro coach Justin Smith said. "We battled back and battled back. We just kept fighting and we came out on top. I am so proud of our guys for coming through at the right times and making the big plays."
Tarboro struggled at the plate the first two games of the classic. They scored 17 runs on just five hits, but they woke their bats up in the championship game and pounded out nine hits, which is a season high in a single game.
The two biggest hits came from Trey Radford and Corey Baker. In the bottom of the sixth, Radford poked a base hit through the right side and drove in two runs to tie the game at 8-8. Then Baker stuck his bat out and got a RBI single up the middle to score the go ahead run for the Vikings.
"Our offensive approach is getting much better and it showed with Trey and Corey getting those tow hits," Smith said. "With runners on base our hits are starting to fall for us and we are scoring runs from those chances."
Sophomore Markese Clapp came through in the sixth and seventh innings on the mound. He earned the win and had a save earlier in the day. He allowed one run on just one hit, while walking two and striking out two. The two performances earned Clapp a spot on the All-Tournament team.
"Markese came in and threw the ball well for us twice today," Smith said. "He got us to the spot we needed to be in and gave us that chance to win."
The underclassmen have been big for Smith this season. He has three sophomores and a junior adding a lot of production to the team either on defense or offense. Junior first baseman Joe Miler made three big plays at first to stop a Warrior's rally. Sophomore second baseman Tristan Bateman came through with two big defensive plays, with one being a spectacular diving catch to keep a run from scoring in the fifth. Sophomore catcher Jordyn Holland went 3 for 3 at the plate in the championship game with a double and a RBI. Holland earned a spot on the All-Tournament team for his three game performances.
The senior leadership stepped up during the classic and proved to their coaching staff that they too could make that big impact in games that has been expected of them. Classic MVP, Travis Martin was a big motivator for the Vikings. He stayed on top of his teammates and told them not to get down and to keep fighting back.
"Our entire team answered the challenge and I am so proud of them for that," Smith said. "We were bound and determined whoever had to step up to help us get this win was going to make sure it happened. Everyone came together and did their part to help us enjoy this moment."
Tarboro had to put together two rallies in the game to make the win possible. They were fired up the entire game and answered the calling when they had too.
"Our pitching and defense has been big all season for us," Smith said. "We just had to get our offense to join in and we could make things happen."
Tarboro never quit the entire classic, because they had to rally from seven down on Friday night to stay in the winner's bracket. They never trailed in the second game, but when a rally was needed the Vikings came together as a whole and worked their way through it to see they didn't fall in defeat Friday.
Smith just hopes his team doesn't fold after winning the classic. Two years ago, the Vikings swept their way through the classic and going back into the conference play, they went on a six game skid and failed to make the playoffs.
Smith said he is going to stay on top of his team and remind them of the momentum they have. He said every time they win the classic, they talk about it could be the beginning of something big, but he doesn't want them to get ahead of themselves. He wants them to take it one game at a time.
"We know the history that goes with winning the Easter Classic," Smith said. "Monday is a work day and we are going back to work to prepare for one game at a time."
Tarboro is back in action Tuesday when they host the Farmville Central Jaguars at 7 p.m.