The Tarboro Vikings had their hands full Wednesday in the 19th annual Tarboro Easter Classic's first round game against the St. Maria Goretti Gaels. The Gaels put up a fight and held the lead through three innings until the Vikings exploded for four runs in the fourth inning and never looked back. Tarboro defeated St. Maria Goretti 11-7.
"I was proud that my guys battled back like they did to win," Tarboro head coach Justin Smith said. "I keep telling them that we had to fight back and things would work out for us. I am just glad we got the win."
Travis Martin started for Tarboro on the hill. He breezed through the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second when the Gaels scored five runs. Martin gave up the five runs on four hits through 1 2/3 innings of work. He walked one and struck out four.
With Tarboro leading 1-0 after one inning, the Gaels responded and sent 10 batters to the plate. Ian Moss led off with a single and Adam Blenckstone followed with a bunt in front of the pitchers mound and Martin made a high throw to first. Josh Moats then singled with a bunt to load the bases. Martin then walked Tim Davidson to force in a run to tie the game at 1-1. Taylor Litzinger then hit a ground ball to shortstop and the ball was booted and the Gaels took a 2-1 lead. Ryan Kinter and Jake Moats then struck out. With two outs, Kevin Proctor then hit a single to score two more runs for the Gaels to give them a 4-1 lead. Casey Bartholomew then hit a double over the left fielders head to score another run to put the Gaels up 5-1. Smith made a visit to the mound and relieved Martin with Trey Radford. He retired the first batter he faced to end the inning.
"We had a melt down in the second inning," Smith said. "We made some mistakes and things didn't quite bounce our way. We didn't get an out on the two bunts they laid down and that isn't how we play. We know where we are suppose to be on those situations but we didn't execute."
Tarboro answered right back in the bottom of the third when they scored two runs. Tyler Wooten singled and Chase Johnson followed with a single on the second pitch after Tristan Bateman stole second. Bateman was Wooten's courtesy runner. Bateman scored on Johnson's single to cut the lead to 5-2. Two batters later, Timmy Walker singled back up the middle to score Johnson and Tarboro trailed 5-3.
Radford retired the Gaels in the fourth and as the Vikings made their way into the dugout Smith had a meeting with his team.
"I told them we weren't being aggressive enough at the plate so I told them to take the swings that we work on," Smith said. "They responded in the fourth inning and we scored those runs to take the lead for good."
Tarboro responded to their coach. They scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-5 lead. The first three Vikings batters reached base safely. Martin then hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Keith Williams, who had reached on a single. Wooten then hit a double to left-center to score Will Dupree and Layne Brewer. Johnson followed with a single to score Wooten.
The Vikings scored four more times in the sixth. Johnson drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to center. Joe Miller then walked with the bases loaded to score another run. Austin Holland then hit a double off of the left field fence to score two more runs to give Tarboro a commanding 11-5 lead.
Dupree relieved Radford in the fifth inning. Radford earned the win.
Dupree was in command of the Gaels hitters until the seventh when Josh Moats hit a two-run homer. Dupree then retired the Gaels to end the threat.
"Travis just didn't have it," Smith said. "Trey came in and threw the ball well and held it down for us. When we got the lead I looked to Will to finish out the game. They both did a good job for us in relief."
Tarboro will play Winslow Township at 7 p.m. today in the second winners bracket game.
Smith is looking for his ace pitcher Chase Johnson to take the hill and try to get the Vikings to the championship game for the fourth consecutive year.
"It is Chase's turn in the rotation so we are going to make sure he gets his work in and go out and hopefully get us the win," Smith said. "With the win he can help us get to the championship game."
If the Vikings win today then they will advance to the championship game for the fourth straight year in a row. They won the championship in 2009 and 2011. They were defeated in 2010 by the Lawrence Academy Warriors.
St. Maria Goretti will play the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars at 1:30 p.m. in the second losers bracket game of the day.
Gales head coach Duane Myers said his team has had their ups and downs all year long. He was referring to two bad innings they had in the fourth and sixth when Tarboro score four runs each inning.
"We played small ball and it worked for us but we had that one bad inning that hurt us," Myers said. "The errors and extra outs hurt us. You take those mistakes away and it would be a better ball game."