Voyager baseball coach Pete Shankle thinks the NCAC race has come down to two teams – Voyager and Roxboro Community School.
And, with last week’s decisive 15-3 victory against Roxboro, Shankle said, “there are a lot of games left in the season, but we’re the team everyone has to chase.”
Voyager made last Tuesday’s win look easy after it batted around its order in the fourth, producing eight hits and 11 runs in the frame.
Winning the game at Pete Shankle Field on the campus of Southern High – where he coached before founding the baseball program at Voyager – boosted the Vikings to 10-4 overall, 4-0 in North Central Athletics Conference games. Roxboro went to 9-6, 3-1.
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“Four solid pitchers,” as Shankle calls Caleb Trueheart, sophomore lefthander Aaron Beasley, Collin Faucette and Gardner Webb signee Bryson Willis, have helped Voyager carry a nine-game win streak into this week.
Against Roxboro, Trueheart (4-1, 2.40 ERA) picked up the win on the mound with 3 and 1/3 innings of shutout ball, striking out five, walking none and giving up only two hits. He helped himself at the plate by hitting an RBI-triple. Faucette topped that by going 3-4 with a double, a triple and three runs batted in. Beasley went 2-4, with two doubles and a triple. Willis hit 2-3 with an RBI.
Kendall Vincent was 2-3 with two doubles and an RBI, and Chase Sykes contributed a double and three RBIs.
Shankle noted that none of the Viking batters struck out against Roxboro, the second time they’ve done that this season. The first was when Voyager won 9-5 April 2 at Southern Lee to win the Chatlee Invitational.
“We’ve won some games that maybe we shouldn’t and lost some very close games against teams like Cardinal Gibbons (twice) and (5-4) at South Granville,” Shankle said. The Vikings’ only other loss was 5-4 in 10 innings at 3A Northwood. “We played a very, very tough schedule. ... We’ve pretty much played the toughest schedule in 1A baseball in this state.”
Meanwhile: Riverside completed a sweep of Garner Magnet with last week’s 9-5 win on the road.
Freshman catcher Varney Whitaker (2-3) led the way with a two-run double, a sacrifice fly and a stolen base, and he scored twice. Eight different Pirates got at least one hit for 11 total against the Trojans.
“I could have done better,” Whitaker said. “Sometimes I get a little anxious and get out front and hit little dinks. We played pretty well in the field tonight, and we were able to drive the ball instead of hitting so many fly balls.”
Riverside was up 5-4 before five of its first six batters rapped out a hit to start the sixth inning, capped by Whitaker’s two-run double to make it an 8-4 lead.
“We’ve been scoring runs,” Riverside coach Doug Simmons said. “When we have good at-bats and put the ball in play good things happen. We just want to force our opponents to make plays instead of striking out, and we’re doing well at that. And our guys are throwing strikes. High school hitters get themselves out.”
Freshman Ray Palma took the mound in the fifth and got his first win after allowing just one hit over the final three innings. A .216 hitter before the game, Palma also batted 2-for-2.
Riverside, which won the first meeting with Garner by an 11-4 score on March 3 in Durham, improved to 11-8 and stayed neck-and-neck with East Chapel Hill and Jordan for the PAC-6’s third guaranteed playoff spot. Coming into this week, all three had four conference losses and trailed leaders Northern Durham and Cardinal Gibbons, which each had one league loss.
Knights drop one: Northern Durham was on its way up in the News & Observer rankings, from 15th to No. 12, and was cruising toward the PAC-6 title before it lost 7-6 April 19 at Jordan. That PAC-6 loss dropped the Knights (12-6, 8-1 PAC) into a tie for the league lead with Gibbons (17-2, 7-1).
Jordan (11-9, 5-4 PAC) exploded for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to rally for the win.
In what seems to be destined for a great showdown, Northern hosts Gibbons on May 3 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Too good? Blake Snell made a promising debut for the Tampa Bay Rays against the New York Yankees. So good that some people think that Tampa may be rethinking its plans to send the lefthander right back to the Durham Bulls.
New York won 3-2 on a walkoff homer in the ninth, but Snell looked impressive in his start. Pitching the first five innings, Snell limited the Yankees to one run and two hits, while striking out six of the 14 batters he faced and walking one.
Rays manager Kevin Cash called it “just an outstanding effort.”
“I don't really worry about the hype,” Snell told the Associated Press. “I felt like I did good, and I put the team in a good position to win, so I feel I did good today.”
Writer Mike Potter contributed to this report