FARMVILLE – After a 45 minute rain delay, the Tarboro Vikings didn't even look like the same team on the field against the Farmville Central Jaguars Friday in Farmville. Tarboro was tied 0-0 with the Jaguars, when the umpires delayed the game due to inclement weather. When Tarboro took the field after the delay, the Jaguars took advantage of four Tarboro errors and scored seven runs in the fourth inning and three in the fifth to defeat Tarboro 10-0 in five innings due to the mercy run rule.
Tarboro was hitless in the game and only had three base runners which came off of walks. All three runners were stranded in scoring position each time.
"Things just didn't go our way after the delay," Tarboro head coach Justin Smith said. "The delay is no excuse, because Farmville played through the same delay. We shut down mentally and didn't make the plays. I give them credit they kept the pressure on us."
Tarboro had a lot on the line going into the game. If they could have won, then they would have finished in second place in the Eastern Plains Conference and locked up home field advantage in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs. With the loss the Vikings will have to travel throughout the playoffs after finishing third in the conference standings.
Keith Williams started on the hill for the Vikings and took the loss. He threw 3 1/3 innings giving up seven runs on seven hits, while walking two and striking out four.
Williams got into trouble in the fourth inning. He struck out the Jaguars lead off batter Matt Riggs, then Farmville Central blew the game open. Dylan Moore got a single, Ricky Hamil followed with a walk. George Sherman followed with a single to load the bases. Jake Ashorn then hit a single to left field to score two runs. With runners at second and third, Stephen Allard hit a single that scored another run for the Jaguars. Justin Taylor then hit a ground ball in the hole between short and third and Travis Martin couldn't field the ball cleanly and Taylor reached base safely and another run scored. Jon Sherman then hit a double to score another run.
Smith had seen enough and relieved Williams with Will Dupree. The first batter Dupree faced, Daniel Nobles hit a single back up the middle to score the Jaguars sixth run of the inning. Riggs then batted for the second time in the inning and laid a bunt down which scored the seventh Jaguars run of the inning.
Dupree gave up three more runs in the fifth inning after Tarboro committed three errors and Farmville Central locked up second place in the conference.
"We just didn't make the routine plays," Smith said. "It hurts so bad to know we had second place in our grasp – I hate it for the seniors, because they aren't going to play at home again."
Tarboro has battled through injuries during the later part of the season, but has found ways to win. Senior Layne Brewer missed a game, while Tyler Wooten missed two and Chase Johnson missed two weeks. Through that Tarboro found ways to win, with different people stepping up to fill in for the injured players. With all the adversity the Vikings had to face, they never once got down on themselves, but in the fifth inning Friday, things changed when they were trailing. They didn't look like the same team on the field, making mental and physical mistakes time after time.
"These guys don't call each other teammates – they call each other family," Smith said. "This team will not let this be the last chapter written about them, because they know how to battle back. Baseball is a funny game sometimes and this wasn't our team on the field the last few innings."
Johnson had missed the last two weeks due to having a cast on his right foot, because of some torn ligaments. He was medically cleared Thursday to play again. He was in the starting lineup as a designated hitter. Johnson didn't play defense, because the coaching staff wanted to make sure he was ready come playoff time Friday.
"Chase just got cleared medically Thursday and I didn't want to take a chance of him rolling his ankle on defense," Smith said. "We are going to need him in the playoffs and I didn't want to take a chance on losing him in this game. He is a large part of who we are and just didn't want to chance it. I want him to be 100 percent healthy come Friday in the first round of the playoffs."
Tarboro will play South Lenior or Topsail Friday in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs.
"We will be ready Friday," Smith said. These guys fight for each other – live and die for each other. I know they will pick each other up when the situation arises and they won't let one another fail and will scrap to get there."
Tarboro failed to make the playoffs last year after starting the season 4-1 in the conference. They went on a downward spiral and lost seven straight.