The Tarboro Vikings made the Eastern Plains Conference standings a little more interesting after they defeated the Beddingfield Bruins 8-3 Friday in Tarboro at Municipal Stadium. With the win the Vikings are now tied for third place with the Bruins in the conference with three conference games remaining.
Tarboro improves to 12-7 overall and 6-3 in conference.
"I thought we played really well," Tarboro head coach Justin Smith said. "We struggled to start with, but we got things to swing back our way and were able to pull out the win. We ran into a few tough situations offensively, but were able to pull through."
Tarboro will have to try and keep winning without one of their leaders Chase Johnson. He was sidelined Thursday after having a cast put on his right foot, because of torn ligaments. He is done for the rest of the regular season and may be able to return to action when the playoffs start. Johnson suffered an injury to his right ankle over three weeks ago and has been playing through the injury.
Smith said his team has to have some players to step up and fill Johnson's role if they are going to be successful the remainder of the season.
"It is tough not having Chase on the field," Smith said. "We didn't lose him all together though, because he is going to be a leader in the dugout during the games to help us as far cheering for his teammates and guiding them in certain situations by talking to them. It hurts not to have his production in the lineup."
Tarboro did have Keith Williams step up Friday though. Williams turned in another good pitching performance throwing around 100 pitches. He threw a complete game giving up three runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out eight.
"The last several outings for Keith have been tremendous," Smith said. "When he is on he is tough to hit. He struggled early, but was able to settle down and get into a groove and help us get the win."
After the Bruins scored a run in the first inning, Tarboro was looking to answer back. They responded in a big way by scoring four runs and blew the game wide open.
Layne Brewer led off with a walk, then Travis Martin singled. Tyler Wooten then drew a walk to load the bases. Drurry Armstrong the hit a single to drive in two runs. Timmy Walker then flew out to left field. With one out Austin Holland hit single a single down the right field line to score Wooten which give Tarboro a 3-1 lead. Williams then hit a single to center to score Armstrong to give Tarboro a 4-1 lead.
Willimas ran into a little trouble in the third inning. Casey Flora reached on a throwing error by the Vikings second baseman Brewer, then Nathan Boykin singled. Williams retired the next two Bruins batters. He then walked Trey Barnes and Chase Edmondson which forced in a run for Beddingfield. Tarboro led 4-2.
The Vikings took advantage of a Bruins error in the fifth. Armstrong singled to start the inning. He then stole second. Walker then hit a ground ball to shortstop and the Bruins shortstop threw the ball over the first baseman's head which allowed Armstrong to score.
The Vikings weren't done. Brewer singled with one out in the sixth. He then stole second. Martin struck out on a questionable called third strike. Wooten then hit a single to score Brewer to give Tarboro a 6-2 lead. With an 0-1 count Armstrong then caught a fast ball belt high and hit a towering home run over the left-center field fence to give the Vikings an 8-2 lead.
The Bruins would scratch a run across in the seventh, but Williams was able to get out the jam and seal the win for Tarboro.
The Bruins turned two double plays on the Vikings. Both came when Smith had a hit-and-run on and his players hit line drives at a Beddingfield player.
"We tried to hit and run a few times but hit the ball hard right at them and got doubled up," Smith said. "Sometimes things like that happen when you try to do those things in those situations."
The Vikings also left seven runners stranded on base in the game. Five of those runners were in scoring position with less than two outs.
Tarboro has a week off and will not return to action until Friday when they host Kinston. It will be the Vikings seniors last home game for the regular season and they are looking to go out on a positive note.
Smith said having the week off gives his team plenty of time to work on some of the things they are still struggling with. The main thing Smith wants his team to work on is getting back to the basic fundamentals of hitting.
"This week off gives us a chance to see a lot of live pitching from our pitchers plus it gives them game situation work," Smith said. "It also gives us a week to get focused for the final three conference games we have."
Smith said with the week off it gives him the opportunity to get Williams rested and back on the mound Friday and hopefully get another good performance from him so they can be sitting in good position going into the final week of the season.
With one more win in the conference the Vikings will be guaranteed a spot in the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs. They failed to make the playoffs last year when they went on a downward spiral in second half of conference play when they didn't win a game after starting off 4-1 in the conference.
"Worst case scenario we want to make sure we make the playoffs," Smith said. "Our goal still stands though that we want to have a shot at winning the conference, because it is important to the seniors. They are working extremely hard to accomplish that goal."