Vikings, Eagles advance to CFVC baseball final
Union Pines and Western Harnett played their way into the Cape Fear Valley Conference baseball title game, which was also moved up 48 hours to Saturday evening, with victories, the No. 3-seeded Vikings beating No. 2 Southern Lee 6-3, then the No. 4 Eagles beating No. 1 Gray's Creek 10-9, on Friday night at Western Harnett.
In the opening semifinal, the Vikings (16-7) needed just one hit to put together a three-run first inning and lead from wire-to-wire against the Cavaliers (20-6). Viking pitcher Noble Davis went the complete game, closing the game out even after the Cavaliers closed within 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth and could've made it tighter.
After Cullen Boyette reached on a Viking error to open the Cavalier sixth, Connor Gaines followed with a drive over Western Harnett's berm, and fence, in straightaway center field. Southern Lee's first hit since an out into the second made it 5-2 Vikings.
Trei Chalmers and Ryan Holmes singled keeping the Cavalier threat going. Nate Brown's groundout scored a run and gave the Vikings two outs.
Jared Kehagias, the Cavs' leadoff man, reached momentarily on an error on a grounder to shortstop. Holmes, rounding third hard before slamming on the brakes as head coach/third base coach David Miller put up a late stop sign, got caught in a rundown and was tagged out.
The Vikings went on to add an insurance run in the seventh and Davis pitched a scoreless Southern Lee seventh. Davis, a senior, gave up five hits and three walks and striking out five.
With the aid of two Cavalier errors in the first, Davis had a lead to work with before coming out to the mound. Dalton Garner's single was the only hit of the rally and it drove in Jeffrey Thompson making it 2-0. A double steal made it 3-0. In the seventh, with runners on the corners, the Vikings turned a runner picked off first into another double steal for a run.
For the Vikings, Emmitt Carden scored in the first and scored in the third after a leadoff single. Thompson knocked in Carden with an RBI single making it 4-0 in the third. Avery Siege singled in Garner with two out in the fifth for a 5-0 UP lead.
Derek Jackson pitched a complete game for the Cavaliers, allowing six hits and striking out four.
Jackson was ejected after he struck out for the second out in the bottom of the seventh.
The Cavaliers were without starting catcher and third-place hitter Ethan Helsman, who was out due to an injury he suffered from a collision on a play at the plate in Southern Lee's game on Wednesday against Gray's Creek.
The Cavaliers and Vikings, along with Gray's Creek and Western Harnett, will be moving on to the NCHSAA 3A State Tournament which is slated to start Friday.
With Southern Lee and Gray's Creek, the CFVC season's co-champions, falling in the semifinals, the CFVC's No. 1 seed for the state tournament will be decided in a one-game playoff between the Cavaliers and Bears - set for Monday at 6 p.m. at Western Harnett.
One huge inning does it for Western
In a chilly nightcap, Western Harnett's 10-run explosion in the third inning led to the Eagles pulling off the upset over top-seeded Gray's Creek.
Gray's Creek swept the Eagles (10-11), by scores of 12-1 and 2-0, in the regular season. The first two frames looked like more of the same.
The Bears sent 10 men to the plate in the first, six after the Eagles had two outs. Three Eagle errors fueled the inning, as the inning could well have ended 0-0 or 1-0. Instead, Gray's Creek led 5-0 and T.J. McDonald's two-run homer made it 7-0 in the second.
After not scratching against Bear pitcher Logan Haines for two innings, the Eagles showed hitting can be contagious in the third.
Starting with leadoff hitter Josh Genthe singling, the first six Eagles knocked singles or doubles in the frame. Kenan Marion's double scored a pair, one being an RBI and one via a Bear error.
The line kept moving and the runs kept coming around to Genthe again, who singled again, this time for an RBI making it 7-6 Bears. Genthe, a senior shortstop/pitcher, has committed to play next year at Coastal Carolina.
With two down and the bases loaded, Marion ripped a triple to the warning track in right-center field giving him four RBI in the inning and the Eagles a 9-7 lead.
Clean-up hitter Shane Godfrey followed with his second RBI single of the inning for a 10-7 Eagle lead.
Zach Taylor pitched the first three-plus innings for the Eagles. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, then was relieved by Genthe with two Bears on and no outs in the fourth. Genthe got the next three Bears out to leave a 10-7 Eagle lead through four.
The Bears scored twice and had the tying run on third in the fifth before Genthe escaped. The Eagles retired the Bears in order for the first time of the night in the sixth.
In the bottom of the seventh, Garrett Johnson reached second, as the tying runner, thanks to an Eagle error with one out. That was as far as Johnson got as Genthe struck out the next two Bears to end the game.
Along with a two-hit, two-run game, Genthe pitched 4.0 innings allowing four hits, no walks and getting five strikeouts.
The Eagles got nine of their 11 hits in the 10-run third inning.
Union Pines and Western Harnett, with this being the last season for the Eagles in the Cape Fear Valley Conference, played in the final Saturday night.