By Matt Myers
The Vance Jr. Vikings used a tough two-run rally in the top of fifth and a pillaging sixth-inning explosion to capture a 17-6 victory over T.A. Dugger Tuesday afternoon at Elizabethton High.
The win is the ninth on the year for the sluggers from Bristol, and it places them firmly in the lead pack of contenders for the Middle 6 conference crown.
In a league where parody has been the name of the game for most of this season, any win is crucial for gaining momentum heading into the postseason — and the Jr. Vikings appear to be more than soundly focused in that respect.
Derek Graham’s leadoff single to left field in the top of the fifth got the Jr. Vikings’ offensive attack under way. The play, coupled with pitching and fielding mistakes from the Jr. Cyclones, allowed Vance to tie the game and load the diamond for Bailey Musick. The blue and white clad left fielder took advantage of his teammates’ play right on queue with an RBI shot to left that completed the rally and left the score 6-5 in favor of Vance.
A base on balls and a sacrifice fly allowed the Vikes to score twice more by the close of the fifth and firmly take control of the game’s momentum.
Just a half-inning later, they took control of the game entirely.
Graham’s leadoff triple to right-center field in the sixth was just the first fire lit in a Viking offensive raid that would leave nine runs in its wake. RBI doubles by Ryan Bowers, David Tolbert and Ethan Jenkins coupled with singles by Ryan Little and Matt Mangrum drove in Viking runner after Viking runner.
Nearly every player in Blue & White crossed the plate as the Jr. Vikings were able to bat entirely through their order in the inning.
The solid showing of offensive prowess was something that was definitely not lost on Jr. Vikings head coach Bo Burton. After the game, the young coach was very impressed with his team’s ability to not only rally, but to capitalize offensively and put the game out of reach as well.
“TAD’s pitching really gave us a hard time in the early going, ” he said. “(Bo) Pless was very sound and our guys struggled early on, so it was good to see them bounce back the way they did. We just really wanted to start having solid at bats and gain a rhythm to see what opportunities we could create late. Fortunately our guys not only started getting those at-bats, they started creating a lot of scoring opportunities. As a head coach, that was great to see.”
Next week the Jr. Vikings (9-3) will face Science Hill, and Burton also talked about his team carrying the momentum they created Tuesday forward towards the postseason.
“We are happy with what we accomplished tonight, but the work doesn’t end here,” he said. “We want our guys to remain grounded and not think about previous games. Next week we have a tough opponent in Science Hill and we want our focus to be in that direction. What the guys did here tonight only helps us build towards getting a win next week.”
Despite the loss, the Jr. Cyclones did maintain solid offensive production throughout the game’s first four innings. Jon Lee’s RBI double in the bottom of the second gave way to RBI singles from Gavin Treadway and Nick Hurley, and allowed the Jr. Cyclones to maintain a semi-comfortable advantage until the Viking rally.
Friday, the Jr. Cyclones (5-4) will face Unicoi in another Middle 6 contest. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.