PINETOPS – The Tarboro Vikings went into Tuesday's game against the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars with one thing in mind and that was to keep the Cougars off of the bases and to keep their winning streak alive. Tarboro accomplished the second goal and defeated SouthWest 8-2 in an Eastern Plains Conference matchup.
This was the Vikings third win without senior Chase Johnson. Tarboro head coach Justin Smith was pleased with his teams overall performance, but was not happy about his team leaving runners on base and in scoring position. Tarboro left seven runners on base throughout the game and six of them were in scoring position.
"We have to execute with runners in scoring position," Smith said. "We are leaving to many runners stranded on base. We can't continue to do that going into the playoffs, because it could cost us a game."
Tarboro kept the Cougars off of the bases through three innings. Will Dupree started on the mound for Tarboro and was the winning pitcher. He didn't allow a base runner until the fourth inning, when he hit Nick Webb with a pitch. The first hit of the game for SouthWest came in the fifth inning, when Damien Bryant hit an 0-2 pitch to center field for single to break up Dupree's no-hitter.
SouthWest scratched two runs across in the sixth inning, when Webb hit a ground ball to Travis Martin at shortstop and the ball bounced off of Martin's arm into left-center. The error allowed Justin Letchworth and Stephen Thompson to score. Letchworth was walked to lead off the inning and Thompson followed with a double to right-center.
"We didn't hit the ball early and that hurt us," Cougars head coach Tommy Tolson said. "If we had come out and hit the ball earlier in the game we could have made it a ball game. The errors also hurt us as well, but that has been the thorn in our side all year long."
Dupree threw 5 1/3 innings giving up two runs on three hits, while walking two and striking out eight.
"Will had a fantastic performance for us," Smith said. "I had faith in him and gave him the ball to go out and give us some good innings. He did and got the us the win. He kept the hitters off balance most the game which helped him get ahead in the count early on hitters."
Tarboro jumped on the Cougars early, but blew the game open in the fourth inning when Tyler Wooten hit a double to right-center to drive in three runs to give Tarboro a 4-0 lead.
Tarboro rallied with two outs to score three runs in the fifth as well. Austin Holland singled with one out to start the rally. Keith Williams followed with a single, then Corey Baker struck out. With two outs, Dupree drew a walk, then Layne Brewer hit a hard ground ball and Cougars first baseman Philip Webb let the ball bounce off his arm into right field and Holland and Williams scored. Brewer tried to advance to second and SouthWest pitcher Chris Owens cut the throw off from right field and got Brewer in a run down between first and second. Brewer was able to stay in the run down long enough to let Dupree score to give Tarboro a 7-0 lead.
Owens threw a complete game for the Cougars giving up eight runs on 12 hits. He walked two and struck out six. The defense committed three costly errors behind Owens, which allowed Tarboro to score five runs.
"Chris struggled early, but sometimes it takes him a while to get settled in," Tolson said. "He settled down began to throw first pitch strikes and caught the Tarboro hitters off balance. I thought he threw the ball well though."
Tarboro has a big game Friday at 7 p.m. at Farmville Central. It is their final regular season game, which could possibly shake things up in the conference standings if Tarboro wins. If Tarboro wins they will be guaranteed at least second place in the conference. If Tarboro wins and North Pitt loses then the Vikings will move into first place and win the conference.
"We are just going to go out there and play as hard as we can," Smith said. "We are going to let the scenarios take care of themselves. We are glad we have clinched a playoff spot already, but we want to move up in the standings and hopefully get a home playoff game. We are going to let things fall where they may and take it from there."
SouthWest will be back in action Friday as well when they host the Kinston Vikings. This will be the Cougars final game of the season and it will be senior night. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.