By VAN HOLLAND
BUNN – The Tarboro Vikings brought their "A" game and some lively bats with them Friday night when they defeated the Bunn Wildcats 7-5 in the first round of the 2-A NCHSAA state baseball playoffs. The last time the Vikings won a playoff game it was at the same location five years ago.
"It was just a great performance by the whole team," Tarboro coach Justin Smith said. "There isn't a single player on this team that didn't contribute and it was a great team effort."
Smith was pleased with his team's offense, because coming into the game Tarboro had been struggling at the plate. They had failed to move runners over when ask to do so and were leaving runners in scoring position. Not Friday though, because the Vikings knew they had a chance from the beginning of the game and carried that confidence with them through the entire game.
Tarboro pounded out seven hits and took advantage of six walks and two Bunn errors. Tarboro's bottom five hitters scored five of the seven runs and collected three of the seven hits. Tristan Bateman and Travis Martin each had two hits and two RBI's apiece from the top of the order. Jordyn Holland had a double and Trey Radford and Corey Baker added singles for the bottom of the lineup.
"We put the bat on the ball when we had too," Smith said. "We took advantage of their mistakes when they made then and made the walks hurt as well. Overall it was a better offensive performance by my guys then what we had given in the past three games."
The Vikings' pitching staff did their job, minus the two home runs they gave up to Nick Cole. He contributed for three of the nine Bunn hits and had four RBI's.
Radford earned the win after throwing 4 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs on six hits, walked two and struck out two. Will Dupree threw the final 2 1/3 innings giving up three runs on three hits, while walking one and striking out four.
"Our pitching was fantastic again," Smith said. "Trey and Will did what I asked them to do. They hit their locations and made great pitches at the right times and our defense played well behind them."
The Vikings got it going in the first inning when Dupree drove in Bateman who had singled to start the game. Bateman added a two RBI triple in the third and Martin drove him in on a ground out to second base. Tyler Harris added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to centerfield that scored Radford to make it 5-2. In the sixth the Vikings added two insurance runs that ended up being helpful. Markese Clapp scored on a wild throw to third by the pitcher and Martin drove in his second run of the game on a single that scored Radford to give the Vikings a 7-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats came to life. Nick Sanders singled and Jackson Lewis drew a walk. Cole then hit a towering shot over the left field foul pole that was questionable if it was fair or not, but the home plate umpire ruled it was fair and Bunn had cut into the lead 7-5.
Dupree battled back after giving up the three-run bomb and retired the next two batters to send Tarboro into the second round of the playoffs.
"I can't be any happier with this team, because we never give up or get down on ourselves," Smith said. "These guys have done everything I have asked them to do. They have fought and battled all year and they have been rewarded for that now."
Smith said his team has had a good season despite their record. He said they work hard everyday at practice and they never quit.
"Whatever kind of challenge is in front of them they are going to face it regardless," Smith said. "We don't see failure as an option right now and I think that is the reason they came out here tonight and fought like they did."
Smith likes his teams chances of advancing through the playoffs and having a good run, but the challenge doesn't get any easier for the Vikings. They travel to Chapel Hill Tuesday to play Carrboro at 7 p.m. Carrboro defeated Edenton Holmes 4-3 Friday night and are a higher seed then Tarboro.