The Tarboro Vikings were looking to accomplish one goal Friday night against the Kinston Vikings in an Eastern Plains Conference matchup. Tarboro was looking to get a win and an lock up a spot in the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs. Tarboro achieved that goal by defeating Kinston 11-1 in six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
"We hit the ball well," Tarboro head coach Justin Smith said. "We put pressure on them and they gave us some extra outs and we took advantage of it and scored some runs. Overall we played a well rounded game."
Now Tarboro is looking for accomplish another goal they set at the beginning of the season and that is win the remaining two conference games they have left and hope to finish in at least second place in the conference and host a first round playoff game. If Tarboro wins the next two games it gives them the advantage against the Farmville Central Jaguars for the second place spot, because the North Pitt Panthers have defeated the Jaguars twice and Tarboro has defeated the Panthers twice this season. So that would give Tarboro the head to head advantage over the Jaguars, because the two teams would have split during the season with one win apiece.
"We had to get there first, but getting is in the playoffs is a goal we wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the season," Smith said. "It was just a focus from the team at the start of the season. Now we have to focus on the next two games and try to move up a spot or two in the conference standings and hopefully get a home playoff game the first round."
Tarboro scored two runs in every inning except in the fourth and put the game away early behind another good pitching performance from Keith Williams. He earned the win. He threw five innings giving up one run on two hits, while striking out six and walking three.
Kinston scored their only run in the first inning. Williams struggled in the beginning of the game. He walked three batters in the first inning after Will Deters led off with a single to right field to start the game. Deters stole second and then attempted to steal third and Tarboro catcher Tyler Wooten threw the ball to third baseman Trey Radford to get Deters out, but the ball hit off of the end of Radford's glove and bounced toward the fence to allow Deters to score.
"We have to get better on situations like that," Smith said. "We have to catch a ball that is thrown right us to get the outs. We have to work on cleaning up our infield so we will stop making mistakes on the routine plays. We just need to work through it and get better."
Tarboro responded in the bottom half of the first inning scoring two runs. Travis Martin singled with one out, then Wooten hit a line drive to right field and the right fielder dropped the ball which put runners at second and third. Armstrong then hit a single to left field and the left fielder bobbled the ball which allowed Martin and Wooten to score to give Tarboro a 2-1 lead.
"After we got down in the first we battled right back and scored those two runs," Smith said. "We didn't let up from there and took advantage of their mistakes."
Williams settled down after the first inning allowing Deters to single to right again in the third, which was the only other hit Kinston would get in the game. Williams faced them minimum batters in the second through the fifth innings. After Deters singled in the third, Williams struck out Nile Frankfort and Wooten threw Deters out at second when he attempted to steal.
Layne Brewer hit a triple in the second inning to score two more Tarboro runs and Austin Holland hit a single to right-center to score two runs in the third to give Tarboro a 6-1 lead.
Coach Smith believes his team is on track now after winning the last two games. He said his team has their minds set on finishing atop the conference and making a deep run in the playoffs.
Tarboro failed to make the playoffs last year after starting conference play with a 4-1 record. Going into the sixth game of conference action Tarboro hit a losing skid and could never regain the momentum. All they needed was one more win to seal a playoff berth, but couldn't find a way to win one game.
This year, Smith has made it his goal to make sure his team stayed as one unit and played together. He is proud of the way his team has fought throughout the season, especially the last two games. Tarboro lost a big part of their offense and ace pitcher Chase Johnson a week ago. He had a cast put on his right foot,because of torn ligaments in his ankle. Johnson is suppose to get the cast off Friday and should be ready to get back in the lineup come playoff time.
Smith said, he has had players step up on both sides of the ball and contribute in Johnson's absence. He said that is what he wants his team to be able to do, which is step in at any given time and play any position when they are needed.
The game was special to five of the Tarboro players, because it was senior night. This could possibly be their last game they play at Municipal Stadium in a Tarboro uniform. The seniors are Wooten, Johnson, Holland, Brewer and Armstrong.
"This is great for our seniors," Smith said. "It makes me feel goods to know these seniors come out and work extra hard each day to get us better. They have been great leaders for our team this year and hopefully they can guide us on a deep run in the playoffs."
Tarboro travels to Pinetops Tuesday to play county rival the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars at 7 p.m.