By VAN HOLLAND
WILSON – Tarboro Vikings coach Justin Smith and his team were satisfied Thursday after they battled back to beat the Beddingfield Bruins 2-1 in eight innings. Both teams were tied for fourth place in the Eastern Plains Conference. Now the Vikings have the upper hand on grabbing the last playoff spot if they can win at least two of their next three games.
"We knew they were going to give us their best shot," Smith said with a smile after the win. "We knew we had to have a big performance from our starting pitcher and we had to have a good approach."
After losing to the Bruins the first time around this season, Smith and his Vikings knew it was crunch time and they had to make some noise and get the win. Smith went to his crafty right handed senior Trey Radford. He throws good off-speed pitches and keeps hitters off balance a lot.
Radford was very effective with his pitches and threw a complete game, giving up the one run on just five hits, while walking four and striking out four. Three of the free passes were intentional.
"Trey was excellent for us and he hit his locations very well," Smith said. "He threw the ball great and made some key pitches to get us out of several jams. He was just fantastic."
Radford threw just 80 pitches in eight innings. He worked his way out of two bases loaded jams and kept the Bruins at bay.
The Bruins scored their lone run in the fourth inning when Carmen Hedgepeth singled to right field and drove in Cole Dudley who had reached on a walk.
"Trey kept the ball down in the zone and made them chase pitches," Smith said. "He made the right pitches at the right times to get out of trouble in back to back innings."
Tarboro had trouble hitting Bruins starter Casey Flora as they have the last four years. Flora throws the ball slow and has a good curveball that throws hitters off balance. He is only allowing a little over a run a game.
"We hit some balls hard, but right at some people," Smith said. "We popped some balls up, but as much as their pitcher changes speeds I knew that was going to happen."
Tarboro had just four hits and two of them came from senior Will Dupree. His second hit of the game was the big, because he tied the game at 1-1 in the sixth when he drove in Tristan Bateman. He had reached on a walk and stole second base.
In the eighth inning, Tyler Harris led off with a single. Bateman then tried to sacrifice Harris over to second, but Harris was forced out at second. Bateman then stole second base. On a 2-2 count to senior shortstop Travis Martin, he hit it back up the middle and Bateman scored when the Bruins cut the ball off and threw Martin out at second.
"We scored the runs when we had the chances too," Smith said. "We got key hits even though there wasn't many of them, but they were at the right times."
Smith had his team prepared to play and knew that they had to be near perfect. Tarboro did commit an error, but it didn't come back to haunt them as it has in the past. They made the big plays and were determined they were going to win.
"We knew we had to play a complete game to be successful," Smith said. "We are scrappy and fight every time we step on the field."
Tarboro has a week off before their next game and Smith said he will have some light practices, but they will work on the things they need to correct to finish out their run down the stretch.
"It is nice that we get to rest up," Smith said. "We have had some people who have come up in big spots for us and we need that break."
If Tarboro can win the next three games and get some help in the conference with Farmville Central losing a couple games, then they could possibly finish in third place.
Smith said hitting and defense are the priorities the next seven days and they will be ready when they travel to Kinston next Friday at 7 p.m. at Grainger Stadium.