By VAN HOLLAND
FARMVILLE – Knowing what was at stake and having the odds against them Friday night, the Tarboro Vikings knew they had to handle business against the Farmville Central Jaguars or their season would come to an abrupt end.
It took the Vikings nine innings to prevail against the Jaguars and earn a playoff berth.
After playing eight nail bitting innings, the Vikings found a reason to celebrate after they scored a run in the top of the ninth beat the Jaguars 1-0 in their final Eastern Plains Conference game. The celebration came, because Tarboro (10-11, 6-6) knew they had defeated the odds and had beaten the Jaguars on their home field for the first time ever. Tarboro had also earned the final playoff spot in the conference and knocked the Jaguars out of contention. Tarboro finishes in a tie for third with the Beddingfield Bruins. Both teams will play tonight at Farmville Central to see who gets the third seed out of the conference. The loser will get the fourth seed. What better way to end a run in 2-A baseball then for the Vikings to win in dramatic fashion.
Tarboro coach Justin Smith knew that his team had overcome a lot during the season, but he has seen them with their backs against the wall plenty of times this year and they have found a way to come out on top. He was glad to see his team play like they did, but he also knows they have to start hitting the ball better then what they have done lately.
"I am so happy for our entire team especially our seniors," Smith said. "It was important for us to make sure these guys got to experience the playoffs again. The playoffs aren't a guaranteed thing and we worked hard to earn that spot."
Tarboro knew coming into the game, if they lost their season was over with. Smith reminded them of that before the game.
"Our senior have worked hard to earn this opportunity," Smith said. "Of course it couldn't be done without our three sophomores and juniors who contribute."
Both teams relied on their pitching to put them in the situation to strike gold and score a run to win. Smith relied on his two senior right handers, Trey Radford and Will Dupree. Radford started and worked six plus innings and Dupree knew at any given time he was going to be called upon to relieve Radford.
Radford was on his game. He gave up just four hits, walked two and struck out three. He managed to work out of four different jams where Farmville Central had runners on second and third and were threatening to score. Radford made the right pitches during each inning and held the Jaguars at bay.
Dupree came in in the seventh after Radford walked the led off batter. Dupree worked out of a jam that inning after the Jaguars had runners on second and third with just one out. In the eighth and ninth innings, Dupree managed to work around the hitters and kept the Jaguars from scratching a run across.
"Our pitchers were big time tonight," Smith said. "Anytime you go nine innings with a shutout that says something. Our senior pitchers have got us here and I have faith in them. If we go down then we will go down with them."
Tarboro had only two hits in the game. Dupree had a single in the first inning and Jordyn Holland had a double in the second.
The Vikings managed to catch the break they needed in the top of the ninth inning, when Tristan Bateman started the inning off being hit by a pitch. On a 2-2 count to Travis Martin, Bateman stole second. Two pitches later, Martin struck out, but the catcher dropped the ball and threw Martin out at first and Bateman advanced to third. Will Dupree then hit a hard ground ball to third and the Jaguars third baseman made an error, which allowed Bateman to score.
"It was impressive to see how we responded in the ninth and score that run," Smith said. "We have numerous guys who can step up at any given time and make something happen for us."
Smith said his guys have been a surprise this season, because they never give up. They have handled the adversity and have had their backs against the wall and have be able to fight through situations and win big games.
"We don't quit," Smith said. "We have fought the entire game of every game this year and these guys just refuse to give up."
For Tarboro to make a run in the playoffs, Smith said his team is going to have to hit the ball better then what they have down the stretch. They have only eight hits in their last three games.
He knows one run isn't going to win many games in high school. He wants to find a way to score more runs. He said he is going to be more aggressive with people on base so they have can have opportunities to score more.
"We have been fortunate to win some low scoring games this year," Smith said. "But we have to find ways to score more runs though."
Smith said the playoffs start tonight for them, because they want to earn the third seed and travel to play Roanoke Rapids in the first round of the playoffs. The fourth seed will travel to play the Bunn Wildcats. The playoffs start Friday.