You would have to look hard in the archives to find a baseball team that's accomplished more in its first four years of existence that Voyager Academy in Durham, but that won't take the sting of Tuesday night away.
The Vikings' (14-5) quest for a third trip to the Eastern Regional championship series ended Tuesday night as Spring Creek rode the arm of pitcher Will Rouse to a 4-1 victory at Southern Durham High School in the 3rd round of the 1-A state playoffs. Voyager could only muster four baserunners, its only run coming off a solo homer by Aaron Beasley in the first inning.
"Tonight, he owned us," said Voyager head coach Pete Shankle, who completed his 30th year as a coach on Tuesday. "We did some things that we normally don't do. Swung at stuff we shouldn't have swung at. We didn't play well. It's just one of those things."
The Gators (16-6) hopped on the Vikings early with two runs in the first inning, forcing Shankle to pull Beasley, the starting pitcher, after just five batters. Spring Creek leadoff batter Logan Miller started with a single to left field and later scored off a hit by cleanup batter Chad Spurgeon. After Beasley was called for a balk, Spurgeon advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
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Moments later, Shankle inserted pitching ace Caleb Trueheart, who finished the game giving up four hits, 2 runs (1 earned) and striking out four in six-and-a-third innings.
"We knew that they had a good running game," said Shankle on his decision to start Beasley. "And we wanted to try the left hander to slow them down because we struggle throwing people out. It didn't quite work out that way. So we brought in our stud and he pitched very well for us. I never would have thought two runs would have beaten us, but it did."
After Beasley's first inning homer, the Vikings' bats were quiet for the rest of the night. Rouse earned the complete game victory on just 91 pitches, retiring eleven consecutive Vikings at one point. Voyager's only base hit in the final five innings was a leadoff single in the 7th by Beasley, who would be left at first.
Spring Creek would add two runs in the third when Spurgeon laced a triple to right field to score Miller. On the next play, Spurgeon scored off a Viking error to give the Gators a 4-1 lead.
Voyager ends the season after claiming its fourth consecutive NCAC conference championship. The school has won 26 consecutive conference games and has gained respect throughout the Bull City with wins over 4-A schools Northern Durham, Person and Southern Durham this season. Not bad for a team that started three freshmen and four sophomores.
"I feel bad for our two seniors that start for us," said Shankle. "It's been a great year. I keep telling them if your goal is to win the state championship every year, you're probably going to be disappointed a whole lot of times in your life. There's maybe one or two 1-A schools in the state of North Carolina that has accomplished more than we have."