Western Harnett had a solid approach at the plate in their Tuesday night home game with Tri-County Conference pace-setter Union Pines. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much else well, committing eight errors, throwing four wild pitches, and walking five.
Giving the Vikings that kind of help isn’t conducive to winning. Union Pines took full advantage and rolled to an 18-6 victory and no worse than a share of the 2021 TCC title.
The Vikings, now 11-1 overall and 7-1 in conference play, locked up a share of the conference crown thanks to this win, coupled with a loss by second-place Southern Lee against Lee County 22 miles to the west in Sanford. Union Pines can clinch the outright title with a win tonight at Triton. With the outright title will also come the conference’s lone automatic state playoff berth for 2021.
Currently ranked ninth among Class 3A teams by MaxPreps.com, the Vikings never trailed on Tuesday. They took the lead in the first inning and had built a 7-0 lead by the time Western (5-8, 5-4 TCC) got back into the game with a six-run fourth inning. It wasn’t a half-inning that Union Pines will put on any highlight reels, but at least most of it was earned. The Eagles put five runners on base in the inning and later capitalized on a fielding error to get another run in. With the score at 7-5 and no one out, Union Pines buckled down and got three straight outs while letting just one more run in.
The score was 8-6 going into the sixth, and then the explosive Viking offense put up six in that frame and added four more in the seventh to blow it wide open. The biggest blow in all of that was a bases-loaded double in the seventh by Mayson Dear that drove in all three runners and extended the lead to 17-6.
Western Harnett managed to get nine walks off three Union Pines pitchers, but did most of the damage off starter Chance Purvis in the fourth inning. Jonathan Foster allowed just an unearned run in 2 1/3 innings of work, and then Ethan McKay was scoreless for 1 2/3 to end it.
At the plate, the Vikings pounded out 17 hits. Jack Lange and Micah Monaghan both went 3-for-4, with Lange scoring three times. Dear went 2-fof-4 and drove in four runs, helped by that bases-clearing double. McKay, Bryson Horney and Finley Spicer all collected two hits, while Horney, Spicer, Purvis, Griffin Booker, Adin Patterson and Monaghan all scored two runs. McKay, Purvis and Trevor Hilburn all had two RBI.
Union Pines has two games left on its schedule. After facing Triton tonight in the season’s only departure from weekly home-and-home series with conference foes, the Vikings will host Western Harnett on Friday night to end the regular season.